Cooking is a serious and competitive business and professional cooking schools can have the air of military camps where fear and strict order dominate. Nothing wrong with that in the world of celebrity chefs, fame and Michelin stars.
But for the rest of us, cooking is either a fun and enjoyable creative endeavour or a boring daily necessity best avoided at all costs.
Many consumer-facing cooking schools, sensing a growing market niche, are offering relaxed, fun classes in cool surroundings that don’t intimidate the participants.
The all-female Japanese ABC Cooking Studio has more than 125 casual cooking studios in Japan, Hong Kong and China.
High-stakes chefs train elsewhere, but ordinary women who love sophisticated cooking in a happy, relaxed atmosphere flock to ABC whose studios draw more than 250,000 participants per year.
Their latest location, in Huangpu, Shanghai, China, is a new take on their already relaxed approach to cooking. Designed by Prism Design under the direction of Reiji Kobayashi, the new studio is all white, soft and friendly.
Black ceilings, light wood accents and white main features keep the studio’s ambiance clean and professional, avoiding the all-so-common trap of too cute that would have opened up with the introduction of pink, baby blue or yellow.
You can relax now and forget all of your bad memories (should you have any…) of drab and dreary home economics classes because the newest cooking schools are cool.
It is true that The Culinary Art School in Tijuana, Mexico is not of the high-school variety – it is for serious chefs with high aspirations – but it oozes a new, cool confidence that could potentially turn even the most nonchalant teenager into a passionate chef.
The elegant use of wood is the key attribute in The Culinary Art School. Its new building was designed by San Diego, California-based Jorge Gracia Arquitecto whose founder, Jorge Gracia, was born in Tijuana in 1973.
The entire school complex carries an air of strict order, almost an ascetic solemnity. If you didn’t notice the stoves or wine racks, you could mistake this for a place of religious study.
And, passionate chefs certainly express a fervour for food, ingredients and cooking that could be likened to religious zeal. It is easy to imagine how the colours, textures and aromas of various ingredients stand out in this kind of environment. It is like a stage for culinary creation or like a frame for gastronomic artwork.
Also in the category of cool cooking schools is the Sydney Seafood School established in 1989 and completely refurbished for its 20th anniversary. It conducts cooking classes for all skill levels and draws more than 12,000 students annually.
Words such as handsome and sexy come to mind when you look at this space, the creative work of Dreamtime Australia Design, based in Sydney, Australia.
Some time ago, we have featured Dreamtime-designed Churchill Butcher Shop in Sydney.
In Sydney Seafood School, a tactile intrigue, and a contrast between serious study and serious fun, are evident in every space. The school’s entry wall is a honeycombed sandstone creation by sculptor Michael Purdy.
The dark and impressive hands-on kitchen looks formidable with lots of shiny stainless steel and glass, but its gravity is lightened by chalkboard walls with “fish graffiti” as art. The cool auditorium’s walls are lined with Icelandic fish leather. In the dining room, the harbour view competes for attention with a row of fun fishnet chandeliers and their more than 6,000 little globes. Where do we sign up? Tuija Seipell
With his IO Studio, established in 2007, Czech architect Luka Krížek has created several notable hospitality projects.
His beer bar at Brandýs nad Labem (near Prague) for Radegast is the first of a potential chain of bars for the famous brand. Radegast is owned by Plzeňský Prazdroj best known by its German name Pilsner Urquell.
We were immediately attracted to the Old-is-New-Again vibe of the former lock factory. We love well-restored, re-purposed buildings with both an old and new tale to tell.
Krížek added a nice unexpected layer of tradition by using the patterns and colours of the Cibulák porcelain also known as Zwiebelmuster or Blue Onion pattern manufactured by Meissen porcelain since the 18th century.
The rounded shape of the onion repeats nicely in the tables, chairs, lamps, vaulted ceiling and even the exposed AC pipes. - Tuija Seipell
Istanbul, with its magical mix of tradition and everything new, cosmopolitan and local, offers a fertile ground for new concepts and new business ideas.
Nopa, the restaurant and grill opened recently in the Nisantasi neighbourhood, is perhaps not that radical as a restaurant concept, but it has a delicious lushness and richness that appeals to us.
The grand scale and opulence speak of bygone times of train travel, gentlemen’s clubs and important residences. Marble, leather, masculine stone surfaces.
But there is also a cool modern, open-to-the world vibe created by the green vertical walls framing the patio that has a glass roof that can be opened in seconds to create an outdoor terrace.
The House Hotel group is the creator and operator of Nopa, with Istanbul’s hospitality designer darlings, Seyhan Özdemir and Sefer Cağlar of Autobahn, in charge of design. - Tuija Seipell.
In the world of fashion, luxury brands, excess and opulence, brands must shout louder and louder – or at least create something dramatically different and new - to be heard, to be noticed, to cut through the noise, to make an impact.
Moderation or modesty have never been Karl Lagerfeld’s style (an iceberg from Sweden being among his best-known past props), so once again this year, he selected a buzz-worthy location to showcase Chanel’s 2014/2015 cruise collection.
This year’s event was a glitzy do with wall-to-wall actresses, stars and princesses and 300 representatives of the world’s most influential fashion media, on a manmade island – THE Island - off the coast of Dubai.
For one night, and sparing no cost, Chanel miraculously conjured up running water, palm trees, luxury shelter and yes, also a full-scale fashion show with all the necessary AV and ambiance.
And yes, plied with that much gutsy craziness, star power and money, the world’s media has, indeed, noticed. Most likely, Chanel and Karl would call it a success. The rest of us are still slightly blinded by the glitz, wondering how far brands are willing to go to gain attention. - Tuija Seipell.
Is there anything more basic, homey and familiar than a loaf of great bread? Yet it has become a luxury. More and more of us are sick of (literally and figuratively) the white, never-to-stale sliced bread in its never-to-biodegrade plastic bag.
We crave for fresh artisanal breads, natural ingredients, heritage grains, organic everything. Those who value great-tasting, healthy bread will pay for quality.
And with that quality and premium price comes the notion of design. Why should we buy that wonderful, healthy loaf at a horrible-looking bakery?
Hominess and hearty fare are great, but does the environment have to look so “homey,” too? Not any more. We are seeing more and more cool bakeries around the world.
Our fans and followers helped us track down a few examples that meet the requirements at least visually. If the loaves and other baked goods created at these establishments remain consistently as great as their environments, you can count us in as fans.
Praktik Hotels has again engaged their go-to designer, Lazaro Rosa Violán, to create their latest hotel, Praktik Bakery in Barclelona. It is a cool 74-room designer hotel where the bakery is not just a branding gimmick but the real soul of the hotel.
The bakery lets the hotel guests feel at home as the scent of fresh bread greets them in the lobby. It is also a visual feast as the baking takes place in full view. The bakery interior is rather grandiose, not a tiny hearth stuck in a corner, and it has that air of a busy urban bakery where people come and go throughout the day. The bakery/lobby/café is a living and lively place void of that mausoleum-like chilly emptiness still so prevalent in hotels.
As always, we love the clean lines, the textured surfaces and the minimalist color-scheme. And of course we love bread and bakeries. Doesn’t everyone?
Blé, Thessaloniki, Greece
Blé Bakery on Agias Sofias in Thessaloniki, Greece, most certainly fits the bill. It was designed by the minimalist architects at Claudio Silvestrin Giuliana Salmaso (London & Milan). It has the world’s largest wood oven – gigantic, at 12 meters (almost 40 feet) tall!
And the bakery is built from cob made of white clay from Crete and Milos, plus sand and straw. Blé’s four floors house a patisserie, bakery, delicatessen and a wine and mozzarella bar.
Electra, Edessa, Greece
Another cool bakery in northern Greece is located about two hours’ drive form Thessaloniki in a town called Edessa. This central Elektra Bakery location is a prototype redesign of the family-run bakery chain’s stores.
The open, minimalist design by Edessa-based Studioprototype Architects helps to disguise the tiny space of 35 square meters (376 square feet) at a busy intersection.
The large outdoor seating area adds to the appeal, and glass walls link the indoors and outdoors to each other. Furniture by Xavier Pauchard and lighting by Tom Dixon.
VyTA Boulangerie Italiana, Turin, Italy
In Italy, the drama never ends. Not even in a bakery. VyTA Boulangerie, designed by Rome-based architect Daniela Colli, is located at the epicentre of busy urban life, the Porta Nuova train station in Turin.
With its contrasting light oak and black polymer surfaces the shop resembles a high-end fashion boutique or bar much more than it does a bakery steeped in tradition or natural ingredients.
Yet, it is an engaging environment with its large L-shaped counter, the stylized natural-oak “hood” over the pastry displays, and the hexagonal beehive detailing. VyTA Boulangerie has stores in Rome, Milan, Turin and Naples.
Princi, Milan, Italy
Of course, the dramatic dawn of the designer bakery took place in Milan. Princi, also designed by Claudio Silvestrin, offers organic breads and other goodies made according to traditional recipes. And it is open 24 hours a day and even on Sundays.
Owner Rocco Princi opened his first bakery in 1986. He now has four stores in Milan and one in Soho, in London.
Joseph – Brot vom Pheinsten, Vienna, Austria
In Vienna, Austria, the latest cool destination for lovers of organic bread is Joseph - Brot vom Pheinsten (Translation: Joseph – Finest Bread), located in the 1st district at Nagelgrasse 9.
This is the first retail store for owner Josef Weghaupt and master baker Friedrich “Fritz” Potocnik whose Joseph delicacies are also available at the city’s finest cafés restaurants, delis and shops. Corporate and graphic design by Martin Dvorak.
Baker D. Chirico, Melbourne, Australia
In Melbourne, Australia, cravings for chic design and amazing bread will be satisfied at two shops owned by Daniel Chirico. In celebration of the artisan baker, his second Baker D. Chirico store in Carlton, unlike the first one in St Kilda neighbourhood, has no coffee machine, deli or other distractions.
It is all about bread. And of course, about design, wonderful curving wood slats infusing light and warmth into the tiny space. Created by March Studio, also responsible for a number of Aesop store interiors.
Bécasse Bakery, Sydney, Australia
The chic, French-inspired Bécasse Bakery is located in the new Westfield Shopping Centre in Sydney, Australia.
It is part of a group of establishments, all located on the fifth floor of the centre and all owned by Justin and Georgia North: Quarter Twenty One restaurant, store and cooking school, plus Bécasse Restaurant and Bécasse Bakery.
The bakery was designed by Sydney-based Mima Design with principals Mark McConnell and Micheline Li Yoo Foo.
Panscape Bakery, Kyoto, Japan
In Kyoto, Japan, Panscape bakery represents the new look of bakeries. The tiny space, just over 26 square metres (280 square feet), looks sleek and clean in the understated, minimalist way the Japanese master so well.
Yet, with its select, massive components of cement and aluminum plus a half-tonne log, the space also exudes solidity and strength.
The concept, architecture and interior are by Osaka-based Hiroki Kawata Architects: ninkipen!
Komsufirin, Istanbul, Turkey
In its fewer than five years of existence, Komsufirin has grown to some 60 stores in Turkey and it sells predominantly pre-baked products, so it is by no means an artisan boutique enterprise, but we like the clear, minimalist interior, redesigned by Istanbul-based Autobahn.
The store name translates as “the oven in the neighbourhood” and Autobahn principals Seyhan Özdemir and Sefer Cağlar used natural oak and white tiles to create a modern and visually spacey environment as a backdrop for the ancient process of baking.
Komsufirin is operated by the Doruk group and it is growing at a breathtaking pace, aiming for 350 stores by 2013 and 1,000 stores by 2020.
Helsinki Bakery, Osaka, Japan
One would expect to find Helsinki Bakery in Finland, but no, this one is located in Osaka, in the three-year-old Hankyu Nishinomiya Gardens shopping mall.
And not just the name, but also the white and natural-wood design have direct connections to Finland.
The store’s Japan-born designer Arihiro Miyake is based in Helsinki-Finland, and has studied in both Japan and Finland.
Simple, healthy and natural are the key words of the bakery and the Scandinavian design supports those notions perfectly.
Lagkagehuset Bakery, Copenhagen, Denmark
Lagkagehuset Bakery’s name translates as “pie house” but there is definitely no homey pie atmosphere in this location, designed by SPACE Copenhagen.
Lagkagehuset’s principals, Steen Skallebæk and Ole Kristoffersen, have been baking independently of each other since the early 1990s. But in 2008, they combined their successes in and started Lagkagehuset that now has 18 locations in Denmark. - Tuija Seipell
Discovered any new designer bakeries we should know about? Get in touch
Hong Kong seems to have more than enough restaurants, yet new ones keep opening up and the best candidates always do well. The latest in the Chinese restaurant genre is Mott 32, in the Standard Chartered Bank Building in Central.
We love the echoes of the past that are visible everywhere at Mott 32 without turning the establishment into a traditional Chinese restaurant. It is all cool vibes and modern touches perfectly suitable for urban Hong Kong
of today, but in a skilfully prepared wrapping of patina and allure.
The name Mott 32 has its roots in 32 Mott Street in New York City where it was the address of the city’s first Chinese convenience store, opened in 1851 by pioneering Hong Kong families whose entrepreneurship and hard work helped establish Chinatown and spread the global love of Chinese food.
Metal, wood, rattan, leather, eccentric lighting, and countless details make Mott 32 a place where there are cool stories everywhere.
A massive abacus in the ceiling, a spectacular display of brushes, newly “decaying” ceilings in the bathroom, cool art on the walls, all of these aspects of the interior are carrying stories that echo the bygone industrial vibe of New York and the agrarian traditions, craftsmanship and hard work in China and Hong Kong. - Tuija Seipell.
New York restaurateurs, Eric Marx and Lisle Richards, known for the Wayfarer at The Quin, have taken on a massive project and turned a Meatpacking District haunt into party central.
The pair opened the elegant Monarch Room earlier this year and just recently, right below it, the Gilded Lily bar. The location of the Monarch and the Gilded Lily is 408 West 15th Street, the former home of the 70s and 80s gay party spot, Crisco Disco. The building has stood empty for three decades while the District around it has been transformed.
To create the interior for Gilded Lily, Marx and Richards worked with New York-based Roman and Williams (of Highline Hotel, Ace, Standard and numerous high-profile restaurants and residences).
They gutted the entire building right down to the support joists and then recreated from these bare bones a special blend of rough industrial brutalism and slightly sinful glamour.
Dancers on the sunken dance floor can now enjoy raw cement surfaces, golden leather seating and a new take on the disco ball: an enormous chandelier of long spikes that is synchronized to the deejay’s music beats.
Apparently the name Gilded Lily comes from the idiom of “gilding the lily” that means covering something with a thin layer of gold and/or unnecessarily enhancing something already beautiful. In Gilded Lily both are true. The already handsome raw space has been embellished by a thin touch of gold. But not completely unnecessarily as it all seems to belong perfectly and echo the past of the District and the building itself. - Tuija Seipell
Wirra Willa is a tiny, tranquil pavilion located in Somersby, NSW, Australia, on an 80-acre property that formerly operated as a citrus fruit orchard.
Designed by architect Matthew Woodward for his father, the pavilion is only 72 square meters (775 sq.ft) in size and it is surrounded by a 36 square meter (387 sq.ft) courtyard.
The villa complements the existing larger residence on the remote property and provides a special, separate place for reflection and rest. It can also be used as a self-contained guest house.
The architect’s inspiration was the Fansworth House designed by Mies van der Rohe in 1951. Just as Mies’s famous dwelling appears to be floating above the landscape, Woodward’s pavilion seems to float on the lily pond, creating a scene straight from a Monet painting.
Achieving the appearance of effortless floating became a particularly challenging aspect of this project. To gain the approvals of the local council, the building had to be raised twice during the building process.
The area is flood-prone and the finished floor level had to be half-a-meter above the “1 in 100 year” flood level although there is a dam with two overflow spill ways. In spite of the two forced raises, the structure has retained its feel of floating and the residents can still enjoy the sensation of walking on water.
Our eyes were drawn initially to the clean lines and basic materials - steel, concrete, glass, sandstone – with wood the dominant feature. Complexity is easy, but elegant, functional minimalism requires restraint and tact, both evident in this lovely villa.
We can imagine – and envy – the guests loving the relaxed, cool feeling of waking up in this pavilion, with the warm morning breeze gently shifting the white drapes. - Tuija Seipell
Opening this week in Antwerp, Belgium, The Jane restaurant designed by Piet Boon has all the building blocks of a success. An intriguing building: A chapel of a former military hospital that gives the restaurant the aura of a sacred place mixed with a certain darkness. An interesting location: Antwerp’s ’t Groen Kwartier that with its lofts in restored buildings and green areas designed by famous architects is developing into a trendy area.
A famous chef-owner: Sergio Herman with his young right-hand man Nick Bril running the establishment. A renowned designer: Dutch Piet Boon restaurant who used fantastic collaborators to add customized spunk. The massive lighting fixture (weighing 800 kg) in the middle of the main dining room was created by Beirut, Lebanon-based PSlab and the stained-glass windows by the Antwerp-based Studio Job led by Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel.
Our favourite aspects of The Jane are the scale of the space - its height, massive arches and large windows, the lovely decaying celling, and the almost complete lack of colour. We like how the interior touches respect the building and echo its history.
In a media release, Nick Bril explains why they named the restaurant The Jane “…Jane is the name of a fictional woman with the same qualities as our restaurant. The Jane will be sensual, exciting and chic. It will have an attractive international air, but also a hint of darkness. It will be tasteful and sophisticated, but also rock-’n’-roll. Like our perfect woman.” - Tuija Seipell