Lacademie de Cuisine
Has anyone taken a cooking class here? If so what were your impressions and what class do you recommend/not recommend?
I haven't yet, but we are going to a class this weekend--we got a gift certificate there for our wedding and plan to use it. Curious to see if anyone else posts responses.
I'll reply to this post with info after taking the class.
I've been to a few classes and, depending on your skill level, I highly recommend them.
I'm a reasonably skilled home cook. I understand the science of cooking (baking not so much). However, each time I've gone (demo classes only...the participation ones fill up fast or don't interest me--candymaking, sushi), I've learned a little something something that helps my cooking.
Even in the demo classes, the food that you get to sample [DON'T COME HUNGRY but you'll get a taste] is pretty good.
Bottom line...if you're a good home cook looking to improve a little...give it a try. If you've had a lot of cooking classes...they might be too simple.
I've taken a couple cooking classes there. I enjoy demonstration more than participation, because that suits my learning style (and I don't want to spend my time chopping). I don't know if they are offered right now, but I really liked the Italian cooking classes with Jackie Cipriano (good sense of humor) and the French cooking classes by Francois Dionot (sp?). Francois may have retired - not sure - but the 3 of his classes I have taken were fantastic. What I especially liked about his classes were the simple 'extras' I learned to make that were not part of the menu - e.g., salad dressing, au gratin potatoes - I make these all the time now. You really do get a decent amount of food/wine samples too when you take a class (although I think the 'don't go hungry' comment was a good one). There is also a store there with very good prices on cooking staples and equipment that make things better - e.g., a good jelly roll pan, sea salt, parchment paper, good vanilla - stuff like that.
I can echo baconjen here -- I really enjoyed one of Dionot's French demonstration classes, and picked up lots of extra tips along the way. He did a ham and endive tart, mustard-encrusted grilled chicken (learned how to "butterfly" a whole bird), potatoes anna, some of the best green beans i've ever had (blanched, then heated with chicken broth and shallots - i make them this way at home all the time now), and hazelnut meringues with chocolate ganache. I'm drooling again just thinking about it.
He shared advice about butter, salt, olive oil, pâte brisée (pie/tart crust) techniques, etc... It was wonderful, and he was great about answering our questions along the way.
Looking forward to taking the knife skills class this fall -- it fills up FAST, fyi -- and am planning to take a few more in the French cooking series.
I took some of their skills and techniques classes longer ago than I like to think about and then I sent my daughters to classes there too. We all benefited from learning the basics from experts. You will never, ever go wrong learning proper basic skills. Ever. Not only will you be able to do the classics but those skills will let you do whatever is trendy today and tomorrow and in a decade and 50 years from now.
Unless you are already pretty confident in the kitchen, the Basic Knife Skills for Meat and Poulty and the Fresh Fish Basics look like the kinds of courses that L'Academie does very well. You should get knife skills, sautéeing, roasting, learn how to tie a roast, boning, searing, deglazing, mirepoix, and a lot of other techniques. The course also teaches you how to do a ballotin of Cornish hen which is pretty fancy and you can use the same technique on a chicken or duck for a really fancy dinner party. That should include a simple forcemeat recipe too. That's a lot of stuff for two classes. I'd think those classes are great values.
Once you have technique down and know how things are supposed to be done, you'll be able to spot easily what's wrong with a dish, whether it's good, bad or just hopelessly mediocre. It will make you a better Chowhound.
The 20-week fundamentals course with Susan Watterson is excellent. I think they call it something like Cooking 101 now, which is a misnomer, because it is not for beginners. The class had one beginner but mostly experienced home cooks, and a few people in or soon to be in the restaurant business who had never had formal training. Joel Olson is also a good teacher there.