The Escapism of a Virtual Cooking Class

The Escapism and Camaraderie of a Zoom Cooking Class

In “Until Further Notice,” an out-of-work chef and dozens of amateur cooks find community at the height of the COVID lockdown.

By Helen Rosner

The digital spaces where we find one another are symphonies of beeps and hums: the chime of an incoming text message, the whoosh of a sent e-mail, the marimba couplet of a new face popping up in a group video chat. They’re no substitute for shouted greetings or close embraces, but for many who have been keeping friends and loved ones at a distance during the past year of pandemic-induced isolation, these technological chirps have become something like proof of life, an ambient soundtrack of human connection. These sounds, melodic and percussive, cascade through the opening minutes of “Until Further Notice,” a documentary from the director Tiffany Hsiung about an unlikely community: a weekly cooking class, taught via Zoom, whose students come together in uncommon intimacy during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

In April, 2020, a little more than a month after Ontario, Canada, went into covid-19 lockdown, Luke Donato felt like he was falling apart. Six months earlier, after the birth of his son, he’d taken a step back from his job as an executive chef at a hip Toronto restaurant, assuming that it would be a temporary leave of absence. But, amid a wave of coronavirus-related closures, his hiatus suddenly became indefinite, and the entire restaurant industry was in free fall. Donato was overwhelmed by a sense of existential paralysis. “I’ve never, in over twenty years, seen Luke go through something like this,” Hsiung, a longtime friend of Donato’s, told me during a conference call with the chef. “He was always the rock — the centerpiece.” Donato wondered if starting a cooking class might lift his spirits; on April 28th, a small group of friends, including Hsiung, gathered on Zoom, for a lesson in making butter chicken. Read the full piece at The New Yorker.

Take part in some of that cooking class ‘escapism’ and ‘camaraderie’ by joining one of our Cook by the Book events! For more information, visit our Cook by the Book page.

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