Wednesday, March 9, 2011

MSA class review: cake-baking

Today I attended my first class at Mutfak Sanatlar Akademisi, Istanbul's best cooking academy. I had been looking forward to this class for a long time, as I had heard only great things about MSA. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed. I will also be attending a bread making course next week with my fiance, and a sushi making course the week after. I intend to write about those as well, so I can give you a more accurate review of the school. 

Let's go with the good stuff first though. Our teacher was enthusiastic and very sweet. He clearly enjoyed teaching the class and tried to be as clear and thorough as possible. Also, the facilities are really wonderful. They are clean and open and the classroom we were in had two glass sides, which allowed for natural light. I also thought it was smart of them to hand out questionnaires afterward as it shows that they want to improve and value students' feedback. 

                                                                                     Now for the bad news. First of all,  I was never told that we would be working in pairs. If I had known, I would have brought a friend along with me. Instead, I had to work with someone else, which meant sharing the baking. This was, needless to say, odd. We would take turns with the different steps, but I would have much rather done the whole thing by myself. 

Second, we were meant to make 4 cakes (German cake, banana hazelnut cake, maple walnut tart and apple strudel), but there just wasn't enough time. This meant our head chef was moving through the steps way too quickly and the final tart wasn't done by the time the 4 hours were up (in fact, the class went 38 minutes over).  I left even though my tart wasn't quite done. I was exhausted from standing up for that long and starving! 

The most important gripe that I had with this 120 TL class at MSA was the fact that I didn't like 3/4 of the cakes. Neither did the other students I spoke to. And it had nothing to do with my baking skills because we were allowed to try the ones baked by our teacher to compare. I couldn't believe it; the cakes I make at home, using my cookbooks are SO much better. The banana cake was dry and didn't have enough banana in it, the german cake tasted like bread with vanilla pudding slathered between and the maple walnut tart didn't have enough time to cook. The only one that was okay was the apple strudel. And I've made better at home. I guess this could be subjective though, as my sister says her roommate thoroughly enjoyed the German cake...

Apples cooking in butter and sugar. 
It's also too bad that the ovens were unreliable. Our oven baked a lot slower than the others, and when we asked about it, the chef said he constantly complains about the same problem. I'm sorry but if the ovens aren't reliable at a cooking school, what is? Isn't that one of the few things that needs to be perfect?  

                                                                                      All in all, I wouldn't recommend this MSA class as is. But I do believe that MSA can  improve by making a couple simple changes. 
1. Tell us beforehand that we will be working in pairs so we can come prepared. 
2. Figure out the ovens. 
3. Include fewer recipes and go slower. 
'German cake' with vanilla filling. 
4. Have students rate the dishes or discuss them while tasting and adjust the menu accordingly. 

Hopefully, the bread making and sushi classes will be more interesting. The fact that I'll be accompanied by my fiance already makes me look forward to it more. Also, I have yet to make bread or sushi on my own, thus I believe I will benefit more from those courses. 


  1. Thank you for this blog! My interest in nutrition began exactly the same way yours did: Skinny Bitch led to documentaries, scanning the web for related articles, etc. I was vegan for a while, and then realized that what's important isn't a set of strict rules, but rather the constant questioning of what's in your food, where it comes from, and what it does for you. I'm a newbie in the kitchen, but I'm interested in learning more about how people substitute medicine for a change in their diet. Looking forward to reading more!

  2. Hi vdbloom!

    Thanks for checking out my blog and I'm glad you like it! That's funny that we have the exact same journey with food an becoming more aware of where our food comes from! Thanks for stopping by and hope to see you around here again!



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