Are the classes at Sur La Table any good?
My friend pointed out an upcoming "knife essentials" class at a local Sur La Table (San Jose, CA area) and it sounded intriguing. It is $55 though so I have a few questions:
1) Is it worth it?
2) How are other cooking classes at Sur La Table?
3) Are there other good cooking classes in the San Jose area that I could check out?
Thanks in advance!
Class description: How to use the cook's most important tool. Brush up on your basic knife skills, become more comfortable at the cutting board and practice fundamental methods for preparing vegetables like a professional. You will learn vegetable cuts, such as mince, dice, brunoise, batonnet, and julienne, as well as some advanced vegetable techniques. This class will include a mandoline demonstration. A snack will be served. Your class fee includes a coupon for one free knife sharpening at Sur La Table.
I took the Knife Skills class at the Berkeley Sur La Table and found it to be an excellent hands-on experience. Each student has a large cutting board area, and assistants walk around, helping clean up. The instructor gives great critiques of your cutting and helps correct bad habits. I have taken some other cooking classes, but this is the one I found most valuable because I use knife skills every time I cook. I have been cooking for a long time, but I still learned something new, and for the most part, the other participants were fairly seasoned cooks. In the beginning class, we covered many fruits/vegetables and there was a demonstration on how to cut up a chicken. In the advanced class, we were taught some "fancy cuts" for vegetables, but it was much less useful.
Well, as someone who teaches at her local Sur La Table, I might be biased, but my classes are good. The local coordinator goes out of her way to get really knowledgeable people to teach, and folks really have a good time at the classes. I do a great deal of prep for my classes, and I hear that the other instructors do as well.
In addition, visiting "celebrity chefs" and cookbook authors do classes on book tours and those evenings are very memorably and enjoyable. Last night I assisted Grace Young, author of "Breath of a Wok" and "Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen" and it was a great night, good recipes, great food and a lot of fun for the folks who participate.
Students also get a 10% off coupon that is good for more than one visit at the classes, too, btw.
It all depends on the instructor, and what your goal is to get out of the class.
I can only speak to some of the Southern California classes, as I've been to several of those. But the "professional" series - such as the knife class, the sauce class, etc. - seem to be incredibly helpful to people. If you are already quite proficient with a knife - comfortable with it, know the basics, and how to do some of the more advanced cuts - then you may be bored. However, the instructors tend to be good at providing information not just on the techniques, but the history behind the cuts (like the 7 sided chateau potatoes).
I will say that many of the other classes are pretty cool. The rice cooker class had all sorts of menu items and ideas of things to cook in a rice cooker (like a custard), the class fee included a free rice cooker, and you also learned how to cook perfect rice in a rice cooker.
Also, feel free to call the store and speak to the class coordinator, tell them your personal background, what it is you are looking to learn, and they're pretty good at letting you know more about the class and what else you can expect.