A recipe book can only teach an aspiring or casual chef so much information, and not everybody is cut out for Le Cordon Bleu. (And, if you're on vacation, perhaps you'd like a break from cooking at your vacation rental!) Pay a bit and learn a lot by signing up for a cooking class at an independent kitchen: often, these establishments are led or owned by retired restauranteurs, former chefs to the stars, professional judges and other respected personalities in the culinary world who desire meeting and guiding regular foodies to achieve great results. Better yet, these vibrant gatherings are a perfect forum to mingle with like-minded individuals and celebrate with close friends, given that instructors usually conclude lessons by holding a large meal with their students. Bon appetit!
On Your Next Trip, Try These Fun Cooking Classes!
Enjoy one of the many upcoming theme classes at Heirloom Kitchen, like this pasta-making Date Night workshop!
1. Heirloom Kitchen - Old Bridge, NJ
Head down to Old Bridge Township to experience the elegant, mother-daughter-run Heirloom Kitchen, a culinary haven that sells handcrafted, vintage-inspired accents for home decoration or as wedding gifts. Alongside the tasteful trivets, carafes and cheese boards, Heirloom Kitchen leads private events as well as classes ranging from basic knife skills to Sicilian-style dishes to gluten-free and vegan cooking lessons in a modern classroom with clean facilities. The establishment’s worldly chefs are eager to share knowledge about far-flung, foreign and lesser-known food styles, yet Heirloom Kitchen makes a point out of including and showcasing local vendors like Hauser Hill Farms and restaurant Common Lot, both also located in New Jersey. Classes, group dinners and other festivities occur later in the week and through the weekend (don’t count on events on Monday or Tuesday); mid-day and evening affairs last between two and four hours, priced between $65 and $100 per guest.
2. Chef Contos Kitchen & Store - Shelburne, VT
Tucked away just south of Burlington, Vermont’s rural capital city, Chef Courtney Contos showcases colorful designer cookware to match her expertly chosen selection of intimate classes, whether she’s guiding you through making falafel, ethnic Uyghur cuisine from the far western end of China or putting on a kid-friendly picnic lunch tutorial. Swimming in credentials, the Chicago-raised Contos rose to fame through blogging and has worked with Food52 and local enterprises like the Vermont Cheese Council; her previously-described cooking classes have been promoted by Food & Wine Magazine. Its extensive calendar stretches a couple months in advance, but most of the classes only fit nine students. Prices vary, but Contos keeps the majority of her lessons short and sweet at two hours or fewer.
3. The Pantry - Seattle, WA
Great for locals and visitors alike, this five-year-old operation nestled between the Ballard and Whittier Heights neighborhoods encourages its students to make the most out of “misunderstood vegetables”, fashion pastries and sourdough bread at home and generally learn all there is to harvest in the western end of Washington State. With prestigious guest chefs and acclaimed food writers at the helm of many of The Pantry’s top-notch cooking classes, it’s no wonder that space fills up incredibly quickly and months in advance; its policy forbids refunds on purchased tickets, yet offers a waitlist for any class that’s fully booked. The Pantry also features kid and parent classes, which have previously sold as a $100 two-student-for-one deal and cater to budding chefs between seven and twelve years of age. Typical one-person tickets otherwise range from 75 to 90 dollars.
4. Good Stock Farm - Hatfield, MA
Out in sleepy western Massachusetts and overlooking the Connecticut River, multiple-award-winning chef Sanford D’Amato and his wife Angela run the charming Good Stock Farm and instructional kitchen, which hosts cozy demonstration dinners and “hands-on” cooking classes for ten students or fewer. Chef Sandy is the deserving recipient of the James Beard Award (among other accolades) and was a protege of late culinary legend Julia Child; after over two decades of running the beloved Sanford Restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and publishing a book, he and Angela relocated to rural Massachusetts to teach others and enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle. In Hatfield, the D’Amatos educate visitors to Good Stock Farm mostly through Sandy’s masterful example; while watching a demonstration, you’ll get to sip on carefully curated wine and enjoy a private cooking show among passionate peers, at $95 a head and four hours of fun. For even more time (over five hours) with this Midwest legend and the opportunity to cook the food with him, get a spot in a “hands-on” class for $150 a ticket and dive in to the art of regional Italian fare. On certain weekends, splurge on a three-day “getaway” with the D’Amatos that includes game, plenty of wine and visits to local farmer’s markets. Due to the high-profile status of chef Sandy, don’t hesitate to reserve a spot in your desired class before space quickly fills up.
You'll make something that looks just like this if you take the "From France With Love" class at Appetite for Seduction.
5. Appetite for Seduction - New York, NY
A solid choice for bachelorette parties and date nights, Appetite for Seduction specializes in aphrodisiac ingredients, explaining to the fullest extent what “sexy” herbs and plants do and how to use them in delicious meals. Each three-hour class, held Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, feels like a dreamy dinner party, integrating blindfolds, healthy dishes and more than enough wine and Prosecco to go around. There’s also a “Boozy Brunch” affair that teaches you and your partner to make quiches as a breakfast-in-bed treat; other themes include spicy finger-friendly Mexican night, traditional French cuisine and both a vegetarian and meat-lover’s Italian menu. Best of all, the highly charismatic hosts at Appetite for Seduction will make cooking with fellow couples an opportunity to make new connections or to simply soak up the kinky energy.
Chef Alyssa's Kitchen in Charlotte is a great place to meet new people in the area during your vacation!
6. Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen - Charlotte, NC
Run by a young but industrious couple, this celebrated cooking house in South End Charlotte instructs its students with sparkling equipment, a large flat-screen TV for demonstrating techniques to a sitting group and the gusto of Chef Alyssa Gorelick herself. A recognizable local figure after years of critical praise, appearances in Food & Wine and winning 2014’s Iron Fork Competition, Alyssa recently faced off against the titular culinary mogul on Beat Bobby Flay. See her magic work on her home turf by taking one of the establishment’s fun and useful classes, like the tutorial on outdoor grilling, a football-friendly guide to “game day favorites” or perhaps have a go at Creole cooking, to name a few options. Cognizant of varying abilities, Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen’s website designates each course by its difficulty level and specifies which menus feature completely gluten-free ingredients. To keep prices capped at around $75 a person, guests are welcome to bring their own beer and wine (the majority of classes are 21 and over); unless otherwise specified, dinners begin at 6:30 p.m.
Not only does the Cooking Studio Taos have cooking classes - it also has a secret supper club!
7. Cooking Studio Taos - Taos, NM
Eager to learn about area-specific delicacies while touring the Southwest? Get an up-close and personal how-to from James Beard invitee and occasional actor Christopher Maher, whose lovely house is the stage for showing off his skills on the chopping block. With a grill, an herb garden and other ingredients sourced from the Taos landscape, Chris helps guests prepare items indigenous to New Mexico, interesting food from all around Europe and North Africa, Thai staples and soups/stews you’ll want to make back at home. Though duration of these classes vary by theme and day of the week, every event costs $98 per guest at most. By the end of your home-cooked meal, you’ll understand why Chris was tapped to serve Bill Clinton and the Dalai Lama his terrific creations.
At Sweet Basil in Scottsdale, you can enjoy shopping in the gourmet store as much as taking a class!
8. Sweet Basil Gourmetware & Cooking School - Scottsdale, AZ
Unlike many independent cooking academies out there, Sweet Basil hosts multiple classes a day, effectively doubling the range of tips and tricks one can learn in its kitchen. From easily applicable lessons in knife skills and knowing which leftovers to freeze, to Southwest favorites and the art of pairing fish with suitable side dishes—this factory of caterers, foodie entrepreneurs and fine-dining experts has every aspect of entertaining covered. Along with hands-on, full-blown classes, Sweet Basil puts on hour-long “Lunch & Learn” demonstrations at a fraction of the average guest price (around $60), multi-part series and couples’ lessons. As a souvenir (to accompany recipes from class), check out the high-quality appliances and tools in Sweet Basil’s kitchenware shop.
Learn how to make beautiful Japanese food at Foodstory in Los Angeles.
9. Foodstory - Los Angeles, CA
L.A. has oodles of authentic Japanese fare, so it’s only natural that a real-deal sushi academy like Foodstory sits smack-dab in the middle of Downtown in a gorgeous, minimal loft that feels a bit like Tokyo. Yoko, the host, comes from a multigenerational Japanese background and is wholly dedicated to every aspect of Foodstory, educating guests on culinary history and bringing in a guest chef for the Vietnamese class for added credibility. Get ready to be blown away making tofu or ramen from scratch, finessing the art of yakitori, assembling the perfect bento box or perusing Downtown’s wholesale fish market (where professionals buy the tastiest cuts). As expected, Foodstory indeed offers sushi lessons that can be reproduced at home. Affordable given the quality and diversity of classes available, tickets range from $70 to $100 per person and cover a two-to-three hour culinary dream. Foodstory states that no dishes contain MSG, and the staff are very accommodating to vegetarian dieters.
This article was written by Juliana Cohen.