A school for dumplings and stuff

by Gus Lubin

Chef Don McMillan had already browned spareribs, chopped cabbage and was in the process of making stuffing for dumplings. Around noon, when the last student arrived, he began to talk. “Now we add garlic using a garlic presser,” Chef Don said, crushing several cloves in a blue plastic nutcracker. “Of course everything needs lots of garlic.

“And then I’ll add some ginger with the ginger grater,” he added, holding up the orange root and a white serrated block. “I’ll add a little bit of ginger [to the spareribs] too — you know, share the wealth.” On the menu at the Stocked Pot was dim sum, including Chinese spareribs, steamed pork dumplings, Armenian stuffed dumplings and vegetarian egg rolls. Students watched and assisted with cooking for about 50 minutes, and then everyone ate. Last Friday’s Lunch & Learn was nearly a private lesson, with only three students. The Winston-Salem cooking school was founded in 1970 at another location in Reynolda Village. Chef Don, who learned to cook on cruise ships, took over operations of the school in 1985. With Don came his teenage son,

Andrew. Father and son headed the cooking school for many years, also opening several local restaurants and a catering company, Catering by Simple Elegance. But they left the school in 1996 to pursue other ventures, and in 1998 the Stocked Pot closed. Ten years later, in 2008, the McMillans re-opened the school at a new location on Jonestown Road, this time under the leadership of Andrew McMillan. “I told him, ‘Dad, you get to come work for me now,’” said Chef Andrew. Andrew said he was inspired to re-open the school by the success of cooking shows on TV. The new Stocked Pot uses Food Network-era technology, like cameras that transmit live close-ups on the kitchen to a TV above the counter, and which also allow DVD recordings of the classes, “[On TV] they don’t have smell-o-vision, you don’t get the recipes and you can’t ask questions. So here people have the opportunity to do that,” Andrew said. The senior McMillan continues to teach many of the courses at the Stocked Pot, including the dim sum Lunch & Learn. In semi-retirement at the family business, Chef Don works behind the counter with grace and joy, like Don Corleone in his garden. He also has the tan skin, jowls and moustache of the Godfather. Last Friday, Chef Don moved quickly without losing the attention of the students. Two of them, Marie-Ann Burgess and Merle Gethings, were regulars at the Stocked Pot and graduates of its five-session Back To Basics course. “I used to do mostly country cooking — meat and potatoes — but they’ve taught me how to cook other things,” said Gethings, a retired World War II veteran. “Yesterday I called Chef about cooking a lobster!” Half an hour into the class, Chef Don invited the students to the counter to fold egg rolls and stuff dumplings. Moments later we gathered around table and ate. The food, which had tantalized me for 50 minutes, was delicious. In fact, it was typical dim sum fare, with the sentimental exception that I helped cook. The atmosphere at lunch was relaxed and intimate as we traded stories about food, travel and love over wine or iced tea, with forks or chopsticks. The Stocked Pot offers a variety of classes for different skill levels. This week’s classes include Salt Free Meals on April 9 at 6:30 p.m., Baking Bread on April 10 at noon and Jr. Chef’s Italian Favorites on April 11 at 10:30 a.m. Full listings are available at Prices range from $22.50 to $44 and include food and wine. The McMillans’ also operate a specialty cooking store at the Jonestown location. Whatever the occasion, the McMillans’ do not skimp on food. At a $10 Italian wine tasting last Friday, Chef Andrew promised lots of Italian food and “more than just cheese and crackers.” The next wine tasting features Argentine wines on May 1, and they continue on many Fridays over the summer.

The Stocked Pot 336.499.5844 381 Jonestown Road Winston-Salem

ChefDon McMillan assembles Armenian dumplings in the kitchen of the StockedPot cooking school, with which he has been associated since 1985. Otheritems on the menu included Chinese spareribs, steamed pork dumplingsand vegetarian egg rolls. (photo by Gus Lubin)