Cedar-based Red Seal chef hosts Learn-to-Cook Weekend

Chef Peter Bowen from the West Coast Cooking School will teach fast, simple seafood recipes Nov. 30-Dec. 1.

Cedar-based Red Seal chef Peter Bowen is hosting a Learn-to-Cook Weekend Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Nanaimo.

Anyone can cook healthy, tasty food.

That is Chef Peter Bowen’s message, and the Cedar-based culinary instructor is hoping to inspire others by showing them fast and simple seafood recipes during a Learn-to-Cook Weekend presented by the West Coast Cooking School Nov. 30-Dec. 1 at Nanaimo FoodShare.

The theme for the weekend is Succulent Seafood from the Salish Sea.

“It’s all going to be fast and easy seafood dishes,” explained Bowen. “It’s nothing complicated. We’ll be using fresh, local seafood. It’s going to be fast and easy.”

The Learn-to-Cook Weekend features four two-and-a-half hour cooking lessons, three full meals, a recipe binder and special events.

There will be an introductory party on the Friday night for participants to get to know each other.

Bowen’s two-and-a-half day in-depth course will show participants easy gourmet ways to prepare, cook and serve seafood. Participants will learn the secrets to selecting the freshest seafood and how to prepare it in recipes that are simple, versatile and delicious.

“I’ve been cooking my whole life, and I find there are so many fast and easy dishes out there,” said Bowen. “We want to demystify it; we want to show restaurant-quality techniques and secrets. Most of the stuff is so easy.”

Bowen, the head chef instructor at the West Coast Cooking School, is a Red Seal Chef who moved to the West Coast as a young man and started his culinary career.

After many years of running high-quality restaurants on Salt Spring Island and Vancouver Island, he became a culinary arts teacher in Cedar.

He is on a mission to “teach as many people to cook as possible.”

Bowen has been teaching cooking for a long time. He used to be a high school instructor, and he has taught in Ladysmith.

“I got into it because I had a catering company, and I started teaching night classes in Cedar,” he explained. “I have a real love of teaching. I think it’s my calling — I think I’m better at teaching cooking than anything I’ve done in my whole life.”

When Bowen was 19, he was working in a factory, and he decided he wanted to go back to school. He wanted to get sponsored, so he thought he would take cooking.

Bowen studied at George Brown College in Toronto.

“The teachers could do six meals at once and use knives like a wizard — I was amazed,” he said. “By the end of the course, I knew I was hooked.”

As a teacher, Bowen is excited about the impact he can have on people’s lives by teaching them to cook simple meals that have many variations.

“What I see now is the world is turning into a fast food world,” he said. “The art of cooking is becoming lost among regular Joes. There seems to be two ways — go to McDonalds or don’t cook at all. I believe there’s a middle road. You can show people it’s super easy. What gratifies me is I can actually change people’s lives.”

Three years ago, Bowen started creating his 5 Minute Gourmet YouTube videos, and the project has led to more than 70,000 views on YouTube. The videos show people how to make gourmet dishes in a professional manner, step-by-step, in real time.

“They’re done in real time in five minutes, and only about half of them work,” laughed Bowen.

After the first year, a public relations company connected to Quaker Oats phoned Bowen and asked him to do some videos for them for their New East couscous. Bowen did five videos for Near East couscous and appeared on Fox morning television.

“I’ve had a lot of strange jobs fall into my lap — teacher cooking on Via Rail, being on TV,” he laughed.

This will be Bowen’s first Learn-to-Cook Weekend.

Bowen is eager to show people how cooking good, healthy food can be easy.

“I guess I’m on a bit of a campaign against junk food,” he said. “I want to change people’s lives. When I was in the high school, I was so surprised how little the kids there could cook, but I would ask them what they cook at home, and I realized their parents don’t cook. I realized it’s a vicious cycle.”

Bowen focuses on using organic, local food.

“It’s not like the thing I’m doing is anything special,” he said. “Keep it fresh. Keep it simple.”

Bowen anticipates doing more of these Learn-to-Cook Weekends next summer.

The West Coast Cooking School Learn-to-Cook Weekend with Chef Peter Bowen runs Nov. 30 to Dec. 1 at Nanaimo FoodShare. Visit the West Coast Cooking School website for registration information and costs.

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