by J.B. Hyppolite
Yoon H. Lee, one of the most popular instructors for Mt. Airy Learning Tree, is definitely no neophyte, having taught Asian Fusion cooking to more than 1000 students in more than 75 in-home classes in addition to her classes at MALT and Main Line School Night, another community-based school. The Conshohocken resident and founder of a company called Let’s Cultivate Food will be teaching classes in exotic wraps, sushi and Thai Fusion cooking for MALT in October at the Unitarian Society of Germantown. This will be her sixth time teaching at MALT.
“After doing cooking classes with over 300 different people just in the past five months, the most popular menu choice has been the Thai menu,” said Yoon, a former co-owner of an Asian Fusion restaurant in the Greater Philadelphia area. (She asked that the name of the restaurant be withheld as well as her age and family/marital status.) Yoon was born in South Korea and moved to America with her family when she was two years old. She grew up in Doylestown and earned a B.A. in Art and Education from Edinboro University.
“It’s officially called the ‘Bangkok to Seoul’ menu because it ties in the favored Pad Thai noodles, chicken satays with pineapple salsa and with the fusion of kimchi in the tofu kimchi dumplings along with the delicious home-made Thai tea.”
In addition to the classes she will be offering at MALT, Lee has taught classes in Korean Barbecue; Hand-made Noodles; Dumplings and more Dumplings; Appetizers and Starters; and Best of Asian Fusion 1 , 2 and 3.
“All have been so much fun,” said Lee. “I remember the first cooking class years and years ago as if it was just yesterday. The in-home cooking classes have been fun as well. From walking down the sidewalks of South Philly in the freezing cold with my sous chef and forgetting where we parked the car once or twice to driving to New Jersey for some classes to participating in silent auctions to charity dinners to personal chef dinners to bridal showers to kids’ birthday parties …
“It has all been such a blast! Meeting different people is always cool, but to meet them in their homes for the first time and then to cook with them is clearly something different that most people will never get to experience. Teaching how to cook food is something I truly enjoy.”
Participants of “Wrap it Up,” her first class on Oct. 9, will learn how to make four or five different wraps during the class including chicken teriyaki and sesame crusted avocado slaw spring rolls. They will be fusing Asian flavors with Italian and South American flavors as well.
Yoon’s other primary endeavor is Let’s Cultivate Food.com, a website and blog that promotes her business of home cooking classes, catering and personal chef dinners. Yoon also encourages local restaurants to place ads on the site.
Visitors to Let’s Cultivate Food are treated to food shopping tips, recipes and site updates. While “Wrap It Up” will be presented in a classroom setting, the cooking classes from Let’s Cultivate Food are a more personal experience. Yoon, along with her sous chef, provide in-home classes. Participants then prepare dinner based on the lessons. They are even given suggestions of what to wear for dinner.
“We bring all of the fresh ingredients, and we use their kitchen to cook whichever menu they chose for the evening,” Lee said. “They can invite friends, their family or just do it themselves — pretty much however many people will come to sit in their kitchen. They learn tips and tricks on how to make those dishes in their own kitchen, and hopefully in the future they’ll be able to replicate them,” said Lee.
Yoon’s emphasis on food art is another interesting aspect of Let’s Cultivate Food.com. When one clicks on the “food art” tab on the website, he/she sees displays of ingredients artfully arranged. For example, black olives stuffed with cream cheese resting on sliced carrots, all in the image of a penguin, each one held in place by a single toothpick. “Art has been my favorite subject ever since I was a little kid,” said Lee. “It’s a stereotype that Asians are good at math. I’m not a hippie, but I’m more artsy than math and science.”