Peter Graben: ManChef
July 3, 2012 | Jewish Tribune
You hardly have to spend five minutes with Peter Graben to know that he’s passionate about his work. As a caterer in the city of Toronto for many years, Peter has served his food to thousands of people in every kind of setting but some of his most important work has been through his new initiative in the past two years. ManChef is Peter’s brainchild, born from the desire to teach single men the skills needed to cook healthy meals. Some men find themselves in situations where they need to pick up skills in the kitchen. Newly divorced, single, widowed, or just a man with more time and a desire to learn to make a good meal, ManChef gives men the skills they need to become competent in the kitchen. Peter’s students have ranged from 24 to 82 years old. He also teaches father-daughter classes, as well as father-son classes and has been coaching those who have recently suffered head injuries to get back on their feet in the kitchen. Peter’s warmth and exuberance could encourage even the biggest kitchen nightmare to cook a lamb chop to perfection.
If you’re looking to diversify your skills in the kitchen, or pick up any skills at all ManChef is for you! But don’t take my word for it, hear it from the ManChef himself:
What is the most underrated ingredient in the kitchen?
Salt. Everyone says to cut down in salt, but really it balances everything out.
What’s your go-to-meal for a hot summer evening?
A poached salmon with a cucumber salad and a grilled asparagus.
What is a recipe that sounds tough but is surprisingly easy?
My grandchildren love macaroni and cheese. It’s with three types of cheese and a béchamel roux with milk. You would think it’s hard to make something like macaroni and cheese from scratch but it really is quite easy to make a good béchamel. You can thicken the sauce with cornstarch, which takes out a lot of the hassle.
Most of your students are single, any tips on cooking for one?
Lots! Cook for one but make two portions so you can have it the next day for lunch. If you’re making a salmon for dinner you can use the other portion in a nice bun, a little lettuce and a Dijon mayo with some dill is a great sandwich lunch!
What have you learned most from your students?
I have found that people want to learn, they want to cook, and it brings people together. It breaks down barriers. It nourishes the soul.
Do you have any recommendations for fantastic local fruits and veggies in the city?
We only buy local Ontario produce! Lady York on Dufferin has the most phenomenal fresh local produce. Right next door is City Fish and that’s where I get all my fish.
What is the biggest mistake someone can make in the kitchen?
Walking away while cooking! Many fires have started this way!
What is your favourite meal of the day?
Some kitchen tools are a necessity-a good set of knives, cutting boards and the like. What is your number one kitchen appliance?
Emulsifiers, hands down!
Men and barbeques seem to be inseparable-what is a good way to shake up the grill?
Corn on the cob! Soak it first, leave it in water for half an hour with the husks on. That way, the water is absorbed right into kernels and the kernels won’t burn. The same can be said for asparagus. A little olive oil, salt, pepper, its perfect. They don’t burn, they’re perfectly green and delicious.
What has surprised you most about teaching?
How much I love it!
ManChef, you can visit the website at www.manchef.ca, or contact Peter “ManChef” Graben at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kaley Ames is a writer, living, breathing, and loving all things