Want to try something new and exciting for dinner? Are you an experienced cook looking to broaden your horizons? Perhaps you’re a newbie to the kitchen and you want to dive head-first into all the wonderful things you can make. Well, King Cole Ducks challenges you to expand your repertoire and get comfortable with all things quack-tastic. Duck may seem like a luxury meat (and we won’t tell if you want to brag to your friends and family that it is) but in reality, it’s nutritious, affordable, and easy to cook with. All it takes is a bit of confidence, and maybe a cooking class or two. Welcome to Duck School!
For the past 70 years, King Cole Ducks in Whitchurch-Stouffville has been raising flocks on an ethical, sustainable and environmentally responsible farm. Their on-farm store offers quality duck and other local products, and they proudly boast a zero-waste operation in which “Everything is used but the quack!” In truth, with such a tasty and wholesome product available, it is astonishing that duck is not one of the main go-to proteins for most families who find themselves stuck in the vicious weeknight cycle of “What’s for dinner?” With Duck School, this family-owned, egg-to-plate duck farm is working to encourage people not to think outside the box, but to bring duck into that box and put it on their regular meal rotation.
Duck School is a popular event that is held once per month. It is an opportunity to learn how to cook a three-course meal with the guidance of an experienced chef, while enjoying the delights of a night out for dinner at the same time. Participants are provided with all the ingredients they need to make a duck appetizer, a duck entrée and a duck dessert—yes, you read that right: a duck dessert! “We usually use duck fat as an ingredient in that,” laughs Patti Thompson, Vice President, Sales and Marketing. “But people are always shocked to see that. They say, ‘We’re having duck for dessert? What are you talking about?!’”
It is true that the pandemic has limited what we can experience and has even, in many cases, altered how we can have those experiences. But like many of our businesses here in York Durham Headwaters, King Cole Ducks has harnessed that entrepreneurial spirit we love, and has created a virtual version of its much-loved culinary offering. Patti says, “When we do the virtual classes, we send out everything you need. We have been doing the virtual classes right up until July, when we took a hiatus from it to see what was happening, how it was going to evolve, and whether we could bring it back to the farm and have it in person, or whether we continue on as a virtual class.”
Prior to the pandemic, Duck School was hosted in person at the farm, but with things looking like they’re opening back up again, stay tuned to find out how this next round of classes will be held. If in-person classes will be offered, all the ingredients are ready for you, so you only have to bring yourself and your appetite. If classes will be held virtually, King Cole offers both a courier and a pickup option, with each one having a different price point. Interestingly, the virtual classes have opened up a new market for Duck School, since proximity is no longer a hindrance in the online world. “We have had people from throughout Ontario participate,” Patti states.
“Duck school opens people’s eyes to this new kind of protein, and they love the experience,” she adds. “We get people from all walks of life—from people who have never cooked duck before to people who are quite gourmet. Listening to everybody around the table as they talk about what they’ve tried in the past or haven’t tried—it’s such an interesting discussion. When they talk about the process of making a boneless duck breast into something that is as beautiful as a tenderloin, it’s gratifying to hear. Duck breast takes a very short time to cook, and when you’re done you’ve got a nice meal. It is way easier than everybody expects, I can tell you that!”
During COVID-19, the staff at King Cole Ducks has seen a rise in interest from people wanting to know more about where their food comes from, which has been particularly gratifying, because this is something that is ingrained in their business model. “For many of us who have tried to encourage folks to look at food, and particularly local food in your own backyard and what we have here available, that is really quite amazing,” Patty says. “Now, when you come to King Cole’s farm-fresh store, you will find a wonderful opportunity to learn more about where your food comes from, and what is done to get it to you. We’ve got lots of words of wisdom and help for someone who is not comfortable with duck. We can even assist in developing something like, for example, a charcuterie plate. It’s about the conversations you can have when you come into the farm, and the warm and fuzzies you get by going directly to the farmer that really makes the difference.”
Come to Duck School, and have a hands-on experience with this delicious product. Learn different ways to cook it, and different recipes to try, all with step-by-step guidance from an experienced chef. Once you’re comfortable with this easy protein, we’re sure it will become a regular feature in your family’s meals. And if you’re feeling particularly cheeky, pull it out at a gathering to impress your friends and extended family. They’ll never know how easy it was to make!
For more information, visit www.kingcoleducks.com/duck-school/. King Cole Ducks is located at 15351 Warden Ave., Whitchurch-Stouffville.
Story by Katherine Ryalen
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