Best of Philly® 2011
Bachelorette Cooking Parties (Girls Gone Mild!)
CHEFS and private cooking-class instructors say they are seeing a spike in requests for bachelorette cooking parties. Why are brides trading in their shot glasses for aprons and recipes?
Anna Hadley, the owner and chef of Simmer and Sear, a cooking school in San Francisco, says that her clients want to do something more interesting with their guests. “During the season, January through September, 80 percent of my requests are for bachelorette parties and bridal showers,” she added.
Anna M. Florio, the owner and chef of La Cucina at the Market in Philadelphia, said that since January, 80 percent of her group classes have been such parties.
When planning a bachelorette party for their sister Julia Bruno Ferrence in June, Jessica Bruno of Glenside, Pa., and Alysia Bruno of Philadelphia decided against renting a historic trolley to go bar-hopping in downtown Philadelphia. Instead they gave a cooking party with Ms. Florio, using local ingredients from the Reading Terminal Farmers’ Market in the city. After a meet-and-greet over wine and cheese at La Cucina, the bride was presented with a white apron hand-trimmed in white toile and seed pearls and embroidered with “Bride.”
Working in groups of three, the women prepared crostini with fig jam, caramelized onions and goat cheese; sweet potato ravioli; roasted pork tenderloin stuffed with prosciutto and fontina; orange and fennel salad; and cannoli con ricotta, the bride’s favorite dessert.
While Dean Martin crooned from a CD, the women chopped, sautéed, stuffed, rolled and laughed their way through preparing their three-hour dinner. And they didn’t have to forgo the drinks — the bride’s sisters provided wines like a 2007 pinot noir from the Henry Estate in Oregon and a 2008 Le Fontane Bardolino from Corte Gardoni in Italy.
Liron Mellor, the executive chef and founder of My Cooking Party in New York, is doing more bachelorette parties as well. “When I started seven years ago, most of the cooking parties were for corporate events,” he said. “Now the bachelorette parties are running 50-50.”
In Great Neck, N.Y., Carly Rappaport, the sister and the matron of honor of the bride, chose a cooking class with Mr. Mellor — My Cooking Party — for the June 12 bachelorette party for Rachael Roisman, 27, a financial analyst in Manhattan. Mr. Meller led the party of 12 women, ages 27 to 38, in a hands-on cooking class set at a loft on West 28th Street. Wine flowed and a mix of lounge, bossa nova and world music made dancing hard to resist.
Most cooking parties take place weeks to a few months before the wedding, which may contribute to their growing popularity. With extra time between the party and wedding, the bride is free to focus on enjoying her close friends and family members without the frenzy surrounding last-minute wedding details.
But for Ms. Ferrence, 26, a social worker at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, the appeal was simply that she enjoys sharing kitchen space with her husband, Michael Ferrence, 31, a special education teacher in Philadelphia.
“He’s actually better than I am,” she said. “We cook together all the time. It’s one of our favorite things to do, cooking and learning about wine. We’re always trying new recipes.”
Kathleen Vassalluzzo Tyson, 41, booked her own bachelorette party. Ms. Tyson, a customer service manager, hired Carlow Cookery in Doylestown, Pa., to lead a wine and food pairing in her home. “I’ve done the nights out on the town, bar-hopping for girlfriends’ bachelorette parties,” she said, “but wanted to do something more laid-back and audience-appropriate that would include the moms.”
Many of the friends of today’s bride hail from different stages in her life — and live in different cities. So for Teresa Poon Rom, 26, an architectural designer in San Francisco, her cousin and bridesmaid Tatiana Kwok planned a bachelorette party from London, choosing a cooking class with Ms. Hadley of Simmer and Sear. By e-mail, Mrs. Rom wrote, “The cooking party was a great way for all of my friends from different circles (old friends I’ve know since second grade, high school, college and coworkers) to get to know each other.”
Customized menus provide another draw. Choosing a menu to highlight the cuisine of the couple’s honeymoon destination, learning how to make dim sum or mastering Italian recipes like the ones they grew up with rank high among bachelorette choices.
And cooking events are starting to prove popular for the men in the bridal party.
When pulling together his good friend’s bachelor party, David Agger, 45, real estate investor in San Francisco, picked a cooking class. “A few of us had missed — O.K. skipped — the main bachelor party as we wanted to have a more meaningful time with our buddy,” Mr. Agger said, “and frankly, we were over the stereotypical Vegas-fest, as was the groom. Also the groom loves to cook, so we knew he would enjoy it.”