Viking: A Little Lesson in How the Other Half Cooks

I don't own any kind of Viking appliance. But if I did, now I know what I would do with it.

I didn't realize that the "Experience the Viking Difference" cooking class at the Viking Cooking school referred to the difference a Viking appliance can make in a cook's life. Corporate executive chef Scott Campbell explained that switching to a Viking appliance (which symbolizes a commitment to the "Viking lifestyle") is like switching from an eight pack of Crayolas to a 64-pack. The class had as much to do with cooking as that metaphor does.

But I enjoyed the class. It was a free infomercial about the history of Viking, the wonder of Viking and the love of Viking, sprinkled with cooking tips. Just from the chef's advice, I feel confident that I can find my way around a Viking broiler, even if I may never be wealthy enough to own one. (MSRP for a typical Viking range: If you have to ask, don't bother asking.)

The six-student class was set up at the bar of a demonstration kitchen inside the Viking School. Campbell bustled back and forth from the kitchen, delivering a three-course lunch and enthusing about Viking products. Laura Heibel remained with the class and also gushed about Viking, explaining why they are the best, most efficient and innovative appliances. By the end of the hour-long class, I was convinced. If you're going to buy Kenmore or Maytag, you may as well just build a campfire and cook that way.

My five classmates all owned Viking appliances, so they were enthralled with the demonstration of the range's brass rings and built-in griddle. I sat quietly and nibbled on my herb vinaigrette-drenched salad. The grimy gas stove that came with my apartment is good for heating soup, burning chicken and leaking gas. A broiler may lurk somewhere beneath the thick layer of carbon and charred food, but until I get renter's insurance, I'm definitely not going to check.

By the time we got to the main course of meatloaf, steamed vegetables and mashed potatoes, Heibel and Campbell were praising Viking in the abstract. He explained that upgrading from one's old appliance to a Viking appliance was like going from a Ford Pinto to a Ferrari. There's a definite learning curve going from automatic to manual, but it pays off.

Heibel clarified, "Or for the women in here, it's like getting a new pair of shoes. At first you're like, 'Oh, I hate these shoes, they hurt my feet!' But then after a while you're like, 'Oh, I love these shoes! I look great in these shoes.' That's what a Viking is like."

I wondered if the car metaphor was superfluous. I mean, if we're going to be that sexist, shouldn't only women be in the kitchen?

The class finished with a slice of chocolate cake that had soaked up a raspberry-tasting sauce. Heibel and the chef gregariously answered questions and shared anecdotes. They stressed that the Viking Cooking School was now our home.

"This is not just for recruiting sales!" Campbell insisted, which was a sweet thing to say. And his warm, inviting demeanor made me believe it, even if the class is an obvious infomercial. The class was comfortable and entertaining, and the advice was probably extraordinarily useful for anyone who owns a Viking range. Or a cooking device created after 1989.

Actual cooking instruction is sold separately at the Viking School's extensive list of cooking classes.

(Below, for those of you lucky enough to get your own Viking appliance this Christmas, is a little culinary cooking video.)