WHAT’S COOKING? Chef Annette Fear whips up a dish in the kitchen of The Spirit House Cooking School.
WHAT’S COOKING? Chef Annette Fear whips up a dish in the kitchen of The Spirit House Cooking School. Nicola Brander

Secret cook's business

THE Spirit House restaurant and cooking school might be hidden away at Yandina.

But it is no secret to Sunshine Coasters and, increasingly, people from all over the world.

The fact Spirit House Cooking school head chef Annette Fear has taught more than one woman from Kazakhstan is testament to that.

She said about 25% of students were from the Sunshine Coast, a similar amount from the South-East Queensland drive market and half from interstate or abroad.

"The Spirit House is a real destination," she said.

"When people come up on holiday they do a class or people with friends visiting on the Sunshine Coast bring them for the day out.

"We get people from all over the world especially during the holidays.

"In winter we get a lot of retirees from New Zealand and Canada.

"I tend to get a younger crowd and guys on weekend and nights.

"During the day I get family groups with kids, mother and daughters.

"I've had hens' nights, even a bucks' day.

"It's a really a fun day out, it's a learning experience and it finishes with food and wine.

"We try and make it so it does appeal to all different skill levels."

"It's user friendly and non intimidating."

Ms Fear's gift for creating recipes which reflect her deep understanding of Asian flavours put the Spirit House on the Queensland culinary map.

She said the cooking school had attempted a range of foods in the past but now stuck with Thai and modern Asian.

"We found if any dishes seem complicated the classes do not fill up but if they can do that at home they're always popular," she said.

"We used to do a mixture but the demand for Thai was high. Because the Spirit House has a reputation of being modern Thai restaurant, it's what people expect.

"It's a cuisine Australians adore, they love Thailand.

"One of the advantages we have is that all the chefs are Australian so we're not bound by tradition.

"We know how it should be but we can say 'this is how it's done in Thailand' but if you can't get Thai basil, use normal basil, and just because they have it so hot it knocks your head off, you don't have to.

"I don't think you are comprising the integrity of the dish, just adapting it."

Ms Fear said the classes - run seven days and two nights a week - focused on the key ingredients of Thai cooking, the fresh goods and the staple pantry ingredients.

She said once people understood the essential ingredients of Thai cooking, they could adapt it.

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