The lodge’s credentials are impeccably green—solar power, natural construction materials, gray water irrigation, natural dyes in upholstery fabrics and carpeting. The place is furnished throughout with log and twig furniture and detailing that invokes distinctive Acadian motifs. Chef and owner Charles Leary and his partners, Daniel Abel and Vaughn Perret, are all Louisiana émigrés. They founded this resort-cum-culinary school to reconnect with their home state’s Cajun roots. Cajun (a corrupted pronunciation of “Acadian”) culture first reached this continent in Nova Scotia, and was all but obliterated by British edict in the 18th Century. It later resurfaced and thrived in the land of the bayous. Here in the Toby, the lodge’s Cajun revival theme infuses the cooking styles taught in Trout Point’s classroom kitchens.
Cajun and Creole cooking, says Leary, “represent the philosophy of simple techniques. They’re the ideal styles for introducing students to culinary arts.” Trout Point’s popular Seafood Cookery programs stress these techniques. One student, an experienced cook, recalled that one of the most useful skills she took away from Trout Point was, at long last, the proper technique for slicing an onion into many uniform pieces. She also took away a lot more: the skills to find and identify unique wild foods native to the adjacent forest, and to cook with them as well as vegetables and herbs gathered from gardens just outside Lodge’s kitchen door. The "seasonal wild delicacies,” as Leary calls them, are an abundant and eminently renewable woodland resource, perfect for recipes like Lime Grilled Cattail Root and Mussels Cooked in Pine Needles. Student chefs also learn to classify and work with the local wild mushrooms. One of the treasured ingredients of French-inspired cuisine is the Black Trumpet Mushroom, and Leary features it in one of the lodge’s classic soup recipes, “a treat,” he writes in his Trout Point Lodge Cookbook, “after coming in from a blustery fall day of picking wild edibles.”
Perhaps the school’s most profound teaching is the sustainable use of seafood. Fish and shellfish appear in profusion on this gusty stretch of Atlantic coastline, but, like everywhere, they are endangered by manmade stresses: climate change, pollution and overfishing. Looking for a culinary vacation to improve her “lame” skills in fish preparation, MacKinnon selected Trout Point on this basis alone. “I started to feel guilty about my shopping habits and wanted to learn more.” Trout Point’s seafood cookery classes target the techniques for locating farmed, responsibly caught seafood and handling and storing it in the kitchen. The chefs buy only from qualified local fishermen—those who offer harpooned swordfish rather than longline captured, and farmed mussels and oysters raised in unpolluted waters. “These guys really walk the talk,” praised a recent student, returning from a field trip to view oyster beds along the Tusket River. “And not only with the seafood. They make their own cheese, their landscaping is edible and renewable and they realize that a lot of us care about all this as deeply as they do.”
Want to Go?
Trout Point Lodge
Kemptville, Nova Scotia
Cost: Rates start at $700 per person, including two nights’ double occupancy.
Recommended: Popular weekend instructional packages include Seafood Cooking, Mediterranean Cuisine, or Cheeses and Cheesemaking, all with hands-on kitchen sessions, local fieldtrips and foraging.
Sustainable in San Francisco
In a luxury hotel at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, renowned chef and culinary educator Kelsie Kerr unites students with the fundamentals of sustainable cooking practices. The San Francisco Bay Area is dense with small organic farms, artisan producers and neighborhood farmers’ markets, all forming the basis of Kerr’s diverse hands-on teaching programs. In mostly three- and four-hour sessions in Cavallo Point's roomy, fully stocked classroom kitchen, students learn a gamut of skills from basic knife techniques to cheese making and fish cookery. The elegant but environmentally responsible lodge and restaurant--landmark buildings restored from a century-old army post--make the Cavallo Point Cooking School a stylish, top-shelf weekend get-away for sustainable gastronomy.
Cavallo Point Cooking School
Cavallo Point Lodge