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Dec 2, 2007 08:57 AM

Cooking classes as holiday gift

My husband is really getting into cooking and I'd love to sign him up for a class or two on some fundamental topics (knife skills, braising) or on French bistro cooking. Anyone care to weigh in on where to look and which classes are best? My budget is about $200.

I was looking at the BU food and wine courses and Stir, but they don't seem to have stuff scheduled for the new year yet. I also was considering the Cambridge Culinary Academy.

Your opinions would be much appreciated!

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  1. I've heard the Cambridge Culinary school is very good - I have several GCs to use there, and was also looking at taking the knife skills class.

    3 Replies
    1. re: LindaWhit

      My wife and I have (together and separately) taken a few recreational classes at Cambridge Culinary, and found them immensely enjoyable; Spanish and Moroccan were two favorites.

      That said, I would note that the recreational classes are designed to be suitable for people with pretty widely varying levels of comfort and skill in the kitchen. As a result, if you're hoping to come away with specific new skills from the class, it would be a good idea to be as deliberate about pursuing your goals as possible. The instructors do a great job trying to teach to various levels within the same kitchen, helping the less confident when they're having trouble, leaving those alone who are essentially looking for an interactive episode of a Food Network show, and answering questions or demonstrating specific techniques when asked, or when the situation calls for it (such as gilling, then salt crusting a whole fish). At very least, your husband should walk away with some great, well-crafted recipes to repeat at home.

      While I haven't taken the technique-centric classes, I would imagine they would necessarily be heavier on specific instruction. Several of my classmates in the recreational classes had taken a knife skills workshop and found it useful.

      1. re: finlero

        Finlero, thanks for the info (although I know you were responding to the OP). As for me, I'm pretty comfortable in the kitchen (although definitely not of any professional abilities). I would mostly like to sharpen my knife skills (some learned from someone who has worked in a professional kitchen) so it sounds like the technique class would definitely be useful for me.

        1. re: finlero

          I found the knife skills class I took at Cambridge Culinary very useful. You can order gift cards from there and let your husband decide when and what class he wants to take. You could wrap up the gift card with the course catalog and tie it with a ribbon.

      2. Helen Rennie is an independent local food blogger and cooking teacher who offers small classes out of her home in Belmont. I've taken one of her classes (which taught how to cook a five-course meal typical of Liguria, Italy) and it was excellent. I plan to take another class in the spring. She also offers both a knife skills class and a French bistro cooking class, as well as classes focusing on meat, fish, sushi, etc. The drawback is that the frequency of offerings is quite limited relative to, say, a culinary school, so your schedule has to coordinate with hers, and you have to book in advance for specific classes at specific times. Each 3-hour class costs about $70, so you could give 3 classes for about $200. Because the classes are so small (I think 10 students max, maybe only 8), you get lots of hands on time and lots of individual attention. Helen's a great teacher and the food we cooked was amazingly delicious and yet not overly complicated. She is extremely knowledgeable about technique as well as ingredients, where to shop, etc.

        1 Reply
        1. re: bella_sarda

          I second and third the recommendation for Helen Rennie.

          What a great gift!

        2. I gave my husband and son a knife skills class (and two good knives!) as a gift. The class was taught by a German chef at the Boston Center for Adult Education, which I selected because the timing worked out for both of them. They were very happy with the experience, but classes there can be hit or miss depending upon the teacher.

          1. Thanks, everyone! I had not heard of Helen (so I'll defintely check her out). I also didn't know I could buy a GC to Cambriadge Culinary--that might be the way to go. (I suspect he'll go for the knife skills...he's into technique and what guy doesn't love sharp things?)

            1 Reply
            1. re: Hungry GR

              Coincidently, I see that Helen has several 'knife skills' classes upcoming. I really enjoyed the two classes I took there and would heartedly recommend.

              Do you get excited about a trip to the farmer's market, but dread chopping all those veggies and herbs? If the onions make you break into tears and you can't remember the last time you sharpened your knife, come to this hands-on class and learn to slice, dice, and mince in a casual and supportive environment. We'll go over which knives are used for which cuts, how to buy a good knife in any price range, as well as sharpening and caring for your knives. And what cooking class is complete without a sumptuous lunch? The meal we'll prepare out of all those veggies might include fennel orange salad, potato leek soup, tomato onion tart, and ratatouille. This class is vegetarian. Limited to 7 people.
              One 3-hour session
              $70 per person
              Fri., December 7, 2007 6pm-9pm Register
              Sat., January 12, 2008 11am-2pm Register
              Thur., March 6, 2008 6pm-9pm Register

            2. How about a gift certificate for a class at Stir (B. Lynch's new demo spot/book store in the South End) or one of Radius' weekend classes? Check out the events page at for more ideas...