Saturday, June 5, 2010

Ritz Carlton Cooking School - Grande Lakes Orlando

We have had the privilege of attending the the Cooking School at Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes Orlando twice. The first time, the theme was barbeque. The most recent experience as focuses on South American cuisine and this is the one I am going to review here. This experience was a package and included:

• 2 nights in a Garden View room

• Continental Breakfast Saturday morning

• Cooking class Saturday Morning to prepare lunch

• Special Argentinean Wine Dinner Saturday night

• Brunch Sunday

• Late check out Sunday

• Valet parking

• Gift from the Chef – a cutting board, dessert cookbook and apron in our case

• All the recipes

The Class

The class is fantastic. Executive Chef Sean Woods leads the class. He selects 3-4 other chefs to help teach and prepare the meal. Since the class is limited to 20 participants, this means that we ended up in groups no larger than 4 per chef. After our continental breakfast we dig in to preparing a long list of buffet items. Each group takes a set of dishes off the lunch menu and works with the chef to prepare the dishes. The menu for this class was:

• Appetizers: Empanadas, Potato Puffs

• Salad: King Crab on Baby Greens with Hearts of Palm, Heirloom Tomato and Onion Salad with Bay Scallops

• Main Selection: Chi lean Turbot, Pork and Shellfish Stew, Hot and Spicy Chicken, Grilled Hanger Steak

• Sides: Grilled Cauliflower in Almond Sauce, Chilean Hot Pepper Sauce, Parsley Sauce

• Desserts: Churros, plus an assortment of the chef’s choosing

This is definitely hands on! It’s so fun to be working right alongside these chefs and learning all their little techniques. Here is Chef Woods showing Glenn how to filet the Chilean Turbot:

The Property

The Grande Lakes property is gorgeous. The campus includes a JW Marriot, a golf course, a pool, a spa, a ropes course and a creek. They offer a lot of different excursions depending on what you like to do: kayak, fish, golf, spa, etc. It is always clean and well kept. We really enjoy it there.

The rooms are also very nice and include huge bathrooms with two sinks and a separate shower and tub. All the rooms have these cute little balconies where you can relax with your in-room coffee in the morning.

The Service

The front desk service is impressive. Once we checked in, we were greeted by name every time we came across each person again. A chef we had met at the last cooking class even sent us a glass of champagne by the pool. We really appreciate small touches like that.

The Restaurants/Bars
This is our only complaint with this property. While the food at our brunch at the Vineyard Grille was fantastic, the service was not. We waited an unacceptable amount of time for drink refills and for dirty dishes to be cleared away. They forgot about our table for over 40 minutes. Not so great. In addition, we have been unable during the course of two visits to secure a drink by the pool. This most recent visit, Glenn was finally able to find a poolside waiter after 5 minutes of walking around. The waiter said he would get back to us and never mind. At this level of hotel, it is sure annoying to be denied the opportunity to spend money.

As our repeat visit indicates, we love this cooking school program. We learn something new each time and it always feels like a vacation. If they continue to offer it, we will continue to attend.