Most people are surprised to learn when I tell them I cook a lot. I eat a lot of vegetables and few carbs, so I enjoy the control cooking gives me over ingredients, salt level, and portions. The biggest trouble that I find, however, with cooking at home is variety, or the lack thereof. I have perfected a few comfort meals with simple ingredients and easy prep, but consequently, I often feel like my family is eating the same thing day in, day out.
Enter Cookpass, a Singapore start-up that believes it’s possible to elevate your culinary skills at your own home with 1-on-1 classes with Chef Titus, who has worked at more Michelin-starred restaurants (Jaan, Odette and many more) than I have eaten at.
Cookpass’ lesson offerings include fancy restaurant dishes made in your own humble kitchen, such as Fish En Papillote, Kung Pao Chicken, Thai Green Curry, and more. Promising to teach fundamentals of cooking instead of just rote recipe learning, Cookpass hopes to empower students with the best practices of cooking techniques so that you can cook your own dishes with confidence.
And most importantly, you cook them at home.
I was excited when I was asked by my editor if I will be keen to be part of this Cookpass experience. After all, learning even just one extra dish would mean expanding my repertoire by 20%, from the same five meals to six!
I generally don’t follow recipes strictly, so I also hoped that I would be able to learn techniques and fundamentals that could apply beyond a single recipe. Given that I have some cooking experience (I think), I chose to do an intermediate-level class. However, Cookpass also offers beginner-level classes available for those who have absolutely no experience or confidence in the kitchen that start from the basics.
Preparing For The Class
Arranging a Cookpass class was easily done through Whatsapp. It was great that the class was also done at the convenience of my own home. External cooking classes at fancy, well-stocked commercial kitchens may be more Insta-worthy but can feel very removed from real life.
Learning and cooking at home meant that whatever I was going to learn would be realistic, and executable if I were to try it again on my own.
The offered menus from Cookpass left me spoilt for choice and I could not decide on a dish to learn. When I mentioned I had an 8-year-old child who I hoped would join the lesson, Chef Titus recommended the Chicken Pie with Salad recipe as it had more hands-on opportunities for children. He advised that generally, baking options are more suitable for children and allow them to have fun working with dough. I couldn’t agree more.
Chef Titus sent me a list of equipment needed:
a stand mixer
stove and pots/pan for cooking the filling
chopping board and knives
I had everything except for the stand mixer and rolling pins, which Chef Titus kindly said that he would bring along. I was glad to see that most recipes offered do not need anything particularly fancy and the average semi-used HDB home kitchen should have most, if not all, of the equipment.
If a home kitchen didn’t have an oven, for example, Chef Titus would recommend a dish that didn’t require the use of an oven like Thai Green Curry. The point here is to make sure that whatever dishes we learn how to cook will be dishes that we can cook from our home kitchen.
A few days before the actual cooking class, Chef Titus gave me the shopping list for Chicken Pie, my chosen recipe. They were mostly very common ingredients, and I already had the majority of them. For those who are too lazy busy to purchase ingredients, for an additional $50, Chef Titus would provide your own personal RedMart service and bring the required ingredients, fresh, to your doorstep. He would also usually provide larger quantities than required in the recipe, so that students could make the recipe again to practice what they have learnt.
However, I was curious about how difficult obtaining the items for the recipe was, as this is a chief stumbling block when I cook following recipes. Many recipes I find online are rarely localised, and frequently demand ingredients not commonly found in Singapore, which necessitates a trip to a larger or specialty Cold Storage to purchase expensive imported ingredients. Hence, I opted to go to the supermarket to purchase my own ingredients.
I already had:
boneless chicken thighs x3
yellow onion x1
medium size carrot
medium size potato x1
2tsp baking powder
100ml olive oil
So, I had to go shopping for the remaining items:
300g salad mix
350g full cream milk
550g plain flour
35ml balsamic vinegar
My shopping basket
In total, I spent $37.70 on my shopping trip which included several of the items bought in bulk as they were fridge staples, such as milk.
Finally, the day of the lesson arrived. Chef Titus arrived and changed into his chef uniform.
Chef Titus in my kitchen
He also brought along a very professional looking stand mixer, as well a toolbox full of knives. We were definitely doing things the professional way now.
Transforming my kitchen into a professional one
The tools of a chef’s trade.
Everything we need to make chicken pie.
Chicken pie requires a crust, so that’s how we first started. Unfortunately, unlike the Michelin Star kitchens that Chef Titus have worked at, I did not have a kitchen weighing scale of any kind to weigh out the flour, butter and milk, which was only the first of many curveballs I threw at Chef Titus. Thankfully, he is adaptable and could help us estimate the weight of ingredients.
I stopped baking some years back because I found it extremely tiring and sticky to mix the dough. Luckily, Chef Titus’ stand mixer did all the hard work in a couple of minutes. He is also able to help you purchase professional grade equipment and tools if needed. Honestly, I have no idea why I never had a stand mixer before, but if I wanted to restart baking again, I would definitely be getting one to save me some effort.
Chef Titus also explained the science behind each and every step. We needed to let the dough rest after mixing it, because it would be overworked and shrink otherwise. I guess dough are very much like us working adults, and resolved never to skip the dough resting step in a recipe ever again.
Our resting dough face.
While the dough was on holiday, we prepared the ingredients for the filling. Though I have been chopping vegetables and meat for years, Chef Titus had a fair few comments on my (shoddy) knife skills and corrected the way I held my knife. He also taught us the fastest and most efficient way to cube vegetables and meat with many tips and tricks. His experience at commercial restaurants really shone through, as I’m sure that many of us will never know what it’s like slicing and dicing under pressure.
Food ninjas at work
Under the careful supervision of Chef Titus, I let Camellia chop some items by herself.
Chef Titus was very attentive and passed her a much smaller, size-appropriate knife so that she would not injure herself handling a normal sized knife and watched her as she was using it. I didn’t have to worry about her safety in the kitchen at all. Personally, I think it’s valuable for children to learn proper knife skills at an early age so that she wouldn’t have to go through as many cut fingers as me.
Bringing home and chopping up the bacon
Next, it was time to cook the filling. Chef Titus showed us how to make roux, a thickener made of flour and butter that can be used in everything from pasta sauce to stews, and is a longer-lasting alternative to the traditional Chinese cornstarch. I’ve always read about roux online in recipes, which has always seemed so foreign and scary, but it was really very simple when Chef Titus showed us how to do it. Sometimes, you just have to see it in person to understand exactly how to do something.
Roux-ing in progress.
Afterwards, we cooked our pie filling. Chef Titus explained the cooking principles behind every step, such as how high heat and a strong fire seals in flavour, while low heat renders out flavour, and gave us tips and tricks on how these principles could apply for other dishes like stews. It was extremely informative and I’m sure that I would whip out a wise tip at some point in the near future.
He also checked with me our family’s preferred salt level and adjusted how much salt was added accordingly. I liked very much that he was very adaptable and flexible instead of going strictly by a recipe. The best chefs, as they say, cook by ‘feeling’ and not rigid spoonfuls or grams.
The chicken pie filling when it was done
The filling was extremely delicious – so delicious that my daughter kept stealing spoonfuls when I was not looking. Thankfully, we still had enough left to fill all the pies.
However, the most laborious part was just starting. The dough returned from their long holiday in the fridge, all firm and ready to be rolled. Chef Titus showed us proper techniques of rolling dough and how to check for thinness and evenness of the dough. He also taught us a trick with parchment paper to ensure that I would never get sticky dough stuck in my fingers and nails again. I’m definitely getting some parchment paper for any future dough rolling.
Next, it was time to fill up the pie dishes. Given that I didn’t have any pie dishes of my own, Chef Titus brought some small disposable ones. He showed Camellia and I how to slice the dough for the base of the pie as well as how to cover the top of the pie with dough. He even added professional touches and details, such as by using egg white and milk to glaze the top of the pie so that it would have a golden sheen. I loved how the pie filling had the additional Big Pau-style egg in the middle, which was a last minute inventive touch.
Cutting out the pie dough
Chef Titus shows us how the professionals cover pies.
Glazing the pie like true professionals. Using a spoon because we didn’t have a brush.
I have 6 pies in the oven
My champion procrastinator self never followed the old adage ‘Clean as you cook.’ However, most professional kitchens enforce this rule, which Chef Titus also apparently swears by. I didn’t even notice as he zoomed around picking plates and cutlery up and washing them in the sink.
A clean kitchen did allow me to focus more on knife skills and cooking rather than being distracted by dirty dishes or lacking space due to used dishes. When I finally popped the pies into the oven and looked up, my kitchen was sparkling clean, almost as if we hadn’t spent hours cooking in it. I made a mental note to attempt to clean as I cook the next time.
Our finished product!
Although Cookpass says that each meal prepared would feed 4, I ended with 6 rather large chicken pies which my family ate over the next 3 days. Luckily, I had enough space in my fridge to accommodate all of them. My daughter was also proud that she directly contributed a fair amount to these delicious pies, and offered to cook breakfast for us the next day. Although I probably wouldn’t let her handle a knife without supervision yet, I’m glad that she is confident enough to want to try.
Having been a humble home cook all my life, it was definitely an eye-opening experience watching and learning from Chef Titus. I never thought that fancy pie and pastry work would be easily achieved at home. With rising inflation and costs, we are definitely better off learning important life skills such as cooking, and doing more with our own hands. Even if I’m unlikely to roll dough weekly, making roux, unlocking flavour of food and slicing effectively are skills that I will use on a near daily basis.
If like me, you want to spend some time to bring out the inner Gordan Ramsey in you, at the comfort of your own kitchen, you can check out the different 1-on-1 Cookpass classes that is offered. Personally, I think Cookpass can also be a great gift for loved ones whom you know enjoy cooking.
For a limited time, Cookpass allows 2 students for each lesson at the same price, so children or hopelessly useless significant others can join in the cooking class as well. Apart from learning essential life skills in the kitchen, it’s a great bonding experience as well. I’m very glad that I let Chef Titus open my eyes to fancy dishes cooked simply in my own kitchen.
1-on-1 Beginner Class (3 Hours) Price: $160 (Ingredients provided by Students), $210 (Ingredients provided by Cook Pass)
1-on-1 Intermediate Class (3 Hours) Price: $180 (Ingredients provided by Students), $230 (Ingredients provided by Cook Pass)
Disclaimer: This experience was provided by Cookpass for editorial review. DollarsAndSense did not receive any monetary compensation for this article.