What is it about cooking classes that I so love? I mean, I can get new recipes from my burgeoning cookbook collection, the many emails/newsletters I receive from some of my favorite blogs, online searches, food magazines, food blogs, books, friends. But, there is something about cooking with a group of people under the tutelage of someone who knows more about a particular cuisine or technique that makes these classes so rewarding. Instructors often have restaurant or catering experience and can share tricks of the trade. They have often studied in other countries on their travels or while living abroad. They have efficient, professional kitchens with awesome cookware and equipment. And they create recipes that rival anything found online.
There are many different types of classes. Some are demonstrative where you watch the instructor work their magic and then you eat the fruits of their labor. There are hands-on classes where each person gets a set of ingredients and the same recipe; you all cook together while watching the instructor. Then there are the hands-on classes where everyone works on a different aspect of the recipe – this one frying this, this one chopping that, this one emulsifying this –working together to create the different dishes. My friend, Michelle Michelotti-Martinez (Eatentions), has a great concept: culinary socials. Michelle creates recipes for a big feast, then everyone breaks up to different stations to cook one of the dishes for the meal. The stations have step-by-step instructions with all of the ingredients and equipment. We also ooh and ahh over each others’ creations before sitting a big table to feast together. It’s a great concept!
I brought Mr. Perfect to a culinary social offered by Michelle – an Italian Valentines Dinner. After being married for 30+ years, I was running out of gift ideas so I thought I’d share my little piece of paradise with him. He rarely ventures into the kitchen because that’s my domain, though he enjoys keeping me company while drinking wine and chatting. (When I return from solo out-of-town trips, I often find only coffee cups and wine glasses in the dishwasher because he eats takeout, frozen meals, or leftovers from the container – none of which require the use of plates.) Even he enjoyed the cooking class and helped with the dish we were entrusted to cook; though, truth be told, he did spend quite a bit of time watching others, sipping wine, and making new friends.
I’ve also taken cooking classes with my children. Right before my oldest son moved to another country, we took a cooking class together, knowing it would be a while before we had an opportunity to cook together again. The class at Jan’s on 4th was about contemporary New Mexico cuisine – even more poignant since he was going to a faraway land without chile. (He enjoyed it so much that he now sometimes uses cooking classes as team building exercises for his department at work.) My youngest son and I have taken a few classes together. We took a bread-making class at our local community college (CNM). He was so inspired, that he then created his own sponge and entered into a bread-making phase, bringing breads to work and sometimes to his parents. We also took a holiday cookie and candy class where we made the most delectable holiday goodies imaginable! He used to love helping make holiday cookies when he was a little boy and enjoyed it as an adult as well. There’s just something so special about a mommy and her son cooking together!
One of my favorite classes was Beyond the Plate with the Lutheran Family Services. I took a class with a beautiful refugee who fled Syria with her family and ended up in Albuquerque. She taught us how to make authentic Syrian food while improving her English and learning marketable skills. We learned some really cook tricks to emulate the cooking she did in her native land, like lighting a piece of charcoal, encapsulating it in foil, and then adding to the covered pot of chicken to give it a smoky, grilled flavor. Then we all sat together and learned about her family while eating beautifully presented food. In fact, one of her sons joined us for the meal to help interpret even though her English was quite good. (Hmmm…. Maybe he was really interested in enjoying his mother’s Baba Ganoush and Chicken Shawarma? Smart kid!)
So many great cooking classes … so little time. Want to know an added benefit to cooking classes? Not only do you get new recipes, but you don’t have to do the dishes!