Cooking classes are a great way to learn basic kitchen skills, to hone the skills you already have, or to learn a new technique with a teacher’s guidance instead of learning by yourself with your fire extinguisher. And who knows? You may even make a new friend or two. Many people are intimidated to go at it alone. But don’t be. You’ll be in the company of many others who might be in a class for the first time. In fact, most cooking classes I attend have at least one student who, when asked why he came, shuffles his feet nervously and claims he can’t boil water. It really doesn’t matter because there are teachers there, walking you step by step through each instruction. That same person is usually planning his first dinner party by the end of class.
Some of my favorite classes I attended are in Laguna Beach at Laguna Culinary Arts. They offer a whole series of “Home Chef Classes” of which I’ve taken a Knife Skills Course, a French Cooking Course, a Brunch Course and a Vegetarian Cooking Course. My favorite so far was titled: Herb Crusted Beef Tenderloin.
The menu was as follows:
- Baby greens with goat cheese and champagne vinaigrette
- Herb crusted beef tenderloin with red wine pan sauce
- Mashed potato gratin with truffle oil
- Oven roasted tomatoes filled with cream spinach
- Chocolate mousse “martinis”
I arrived early and had a chance to enjoy a glass of wine before class started in the small cafe that is open in the front of the school, watching others file in, wondering who I’d hit it off with or hope to see again. Once it was time to start, I was ushered to the back where I signed in, got a name tag, and met my instructors. I was then led to the kitchen area where the class was to take place. While we students waited for our instructor to set up we all poked at small talk and why we were there. Some for the love of cooking, some to impress a date or feed a family, and others because they received a gift from a loved one. The latter reason of which always making me giggle a little.
The kitchen space was arranged so that we each had our own stations with knives, cutting boards, aprons and measuring cups. All the ingredients were strewn around the kitchen and we all were equipped with stacks of recipes for each course. The teachers provided an overview of the order in which we would be preparing dishes and walked us through making each recipe. We chatted and mingled as we took turns chopping, mixing and stirring. Some students more advanced and willing to help those less so. Everyone was anxious to take a turn or watch how the process of stirring or combining produced certain consistencies so they might replicate the process at home. As the salad was ready, we all filed out to a dining room table and sat and ate together, discussing the wine pairing we’d been poured. After devouring our salads, we went back to finish the entree, sides and dessert. And the experience wouldn’t have been complete without John over whipping the cream or Mary over salting the sauce. But, we learned tricks and fixes, and in the end realized nothing had to be perfect. Upon completing final touches, we went back to the table to enjoy the rest of the meal we’d created together.
To me, a cooking class culminates everything I love: learning something new, meeting new people and great food and wine. So, for those of you who have always wondered what it’s like, I hope I’ve demystified the experience and provided the nudge you need to book a class and check another box off your bucket list. Bon appétit!
To check out other cooking courses in Orange County, try these links: