By Laura Latzko
During the state’s stay-at-home order, many families have been struggling with what to make for dinner. Local business owners have sought to inspire others through virtual cooking lessons via Facebook.
Among those are David Borrego of Glendale’s Urban Margarita and Peggy Fiandaca and Curt Durham of LDV Winery in Scottsdale.
Urban Margarita has had cooking lessons for the public since last fall, but going virtual has been a new experience for Borrego.
“For me, it was a way to give back to all of our regular guests who always attend our classes. While we are having this COVID-19 pandemic, it allows people to see a class and get to know some of our food,” Borrego says.
LDV Winery temporarily closed its tasting room in March due to coronavirus concerns. Doing the cooking sessions allows the owners to continue to interact with their customers.
“We don’t have an opportunity, except for something like this, to connect with our customers and connect with people who have come into our tasting rooms on a regular basis. … We’re all about that connection to our lands, connection to the people who drink our wine,” Fiandaca says.
Borrego’s wife, Kimberly Newhart, says the online cooking lessons can give families fresh ideas for what to cook at home together. The cooking lessons have been going live at 2 p.m. Fridays.
“They can cook as a family and make creative meals with some food that they have in their kitchen,” Newhart says.
Although it has hosted a supper club series, this is the first time LDV Winery has offered step-by-step instructions on how to cook recipes. In March, it hosted a wine release party via Zoom. The winery’s cooking lessons have been going live at 4 p.m. Thursdays.
The two establishments’ cooking classes have attracted out-of-state viewers from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, New Mexico, North and South Carolina, Texas, Colorado, Illinois and Oregon.
During their cooking lessons, Fiandaca and Durham have discussed which wines pair well with certain foods.
“All of our wines are food-friendly wines. When we are producing wines, we want to make sure that someone can sit down for a multicourse meal and have one of our wines with every course,” Fiandaca says.
Customers can purchase individual wines or packages from the winery to try during the cooking lessons.
Borrego has discussed wine and margarita pairings during his videos.
Both establishments have tried to cater their cooking lessons to different skill levels. Borrego says even amateur cooks can follow the recipes he shares.
“The recipes I am utilizing are pretty simple. I don’t want to make them any harder than they need to be. There have a lot of simple ingredients. That’s the fun of it. People can either follow along or make it fairly easy,” Borrego says.
During the videos, Borrego will suggest different ways that families can change up the recipes with other ingredients or substitutes, especially if they aren’t able to find exact items such as hatch green chile.
“When I do the classes, I let them know that they can make them their own,” Borrego says.
Borrego has prepared dishes that are on Urban Margarita’s menu, like hatch green chile pork tamales, slow-cooked braised pork carnitas and braised prime short ribs.
Fiandaca and Durham have included some of their favorites, such as spicy shrimp pasta, flatbreads three ways, grilled ribeye steak with roasted potatoes, and pork tenderloin in a roasted pepper sauce with Mexican corn.
Prior to the sessions, the restaurants post ingredient lists online so viewers can ensure they have what they need.
Sometimes, Fiandaca and Durham have had to improvise during their cooking sessions. During one session, Fiandaca shared with viewers what to do if they don’t have enough chicken broth or don’t have chickpeas in their pantries.
Fiandaca has ad libbed and taught viewers something new to go with a recipe, such as a sauce that complements it.
“The folks that were cooking along with us loved that and said it really added a lot to it,” Fiandaca says.
Through the Facebook cooking lessons, participants can share their end products, engage with each other and post questions for the chefs. Borrego says thus far, viewers have mainly been asking about timing, temperatures and techniques such as braising.
The biggest challenge for the two businesses has been with using technology to record the cooking sessions. Borrego says the key is to provide a clear view of each step.
Borrego is used to conversing with customers in his restaurant, but at first, he was nervous to be recorded.
“As you do it a couple of times, you are more relaxed,” Borrego says.
Newhart says the videos offer a glimpse into Borrego’s process in the kitchen.
“It shows his personality and his passion for food,” Newhart says.
Newhart says she and Borrego wanted to bring the homey, welcoming feeling offer in their restaurant.
“We wanted to bring Urban Margarita to you even when you can’t spend that time in our restaurant,” Newhart says.
This has also been the first time that Fiandaca and Durham have hosted live cooking segments. Fiandaca says representing the winery on local news programs has helped her to get more comfortable with being in front of the camera.
She has tried to approach it like a casual night of cooking at home.
“You’re cooking, you’re laughing, you’re telling stories and you’re telling jokes. You’re just sharing the hour together and having fun,” Fiandaca says.
Although she does it more at home and for friends and family, cooking is something Fiandaca grew up with and for which she has a deep appreciation.
“Coming from a big Italian family, you learn a lot about cooking growing up like that. That connection with family and friends over the dinner table, I have such fond memories of that,” Fiandaca says.
Fiandaca hopes through the cooking lessons to inspire others to want to experiment in the kitchen.
“I want cooking in the kitchen with your family and friends to be approachable. Don’t be afraid of it. Try something new,” Fiandaca says.