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Please recommend intimate cooking classes


Could anyone recommend a cooking class for the novice, non-vocational participant in the Bay Area that is intimate, truly helpful and fun? This is a gift for a friend...I don't live in your area, so I'm not up to date on schools that fit this profile. I am not looking for something akin to Sur La Table, where participants sit in folding chairs looking at a cook top reflected by a mirror. Something on the smaller side, with real participation, where the instructor is very knowledgeable and capable of teaching well.


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    1. Kasma is well-known and highly recommended in the Bay Area:

      1 Reply
      1. re: damyth

        I loved Kasma's weeklong beginner intensive class, but it or even the beginner evening series might be a bit much for a novice -- both in terms of the time commitment and the intensity.

        1. i went to draegers in san mateo and had a great time. Not to mention making a great meal and learning some skills at the same time.

          1. I've attended several classes at Tante Marie's in San Francisco, and I loved it. You should check them out. Although I haven't been in a few years, the last time I went it was very intimate. Classes were small, the instructors were very good, and the overall experience was wonderful.

            Tante Marie's Cooking School
            271 Francisco St, San Francisco, CA

            1 Reply
            1. re: foodiesf

              I'd second Tante Marie's as your best bet.

            2. Sorry looks like this is closed for this semester but maybe later. I attended a Vegetarian
              Thai class as a guest and enjoyed the hands on cooking and the delicious food we made.

              1. For regional Indian cooking www.rutaruta.com Ruta runs classes out of her home in Oakland. They are never more than 12 people and she is charming and knowledgeable. She also taught a Sur la Table. It is all hands on cooking and everyone sit down to eat the results!

                1 Reply
                1. re: chefj

                  FYI, I believe Ruta is taking a break this year and not offering any classes.
                  edit - Just checked and she is only doing classes after April if you sign up with a total of 10 people.

                2. Rosetta Costantino does great classes at Paulding in Berkeley/Oakland. www.cookingwithrosetta.com. Kitchen on Fire on Shattuck in Berkeley has a variety of classes. www.kitchenonfire.com. If there aren't transportation issues Ramekins in Sonoma, Draegers has a couple locations, and SLT downtown San Francisco also has some classes.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: KJP

                    O.P. said "I am not looking for something akin to Sur La Table, where participants sit in folding chairs looking at a cook top reflected by a mirror."

                  2. Where in the area does your friend live? Committing to a cooking class after work could be a chore if a bridge has to be crossed. Do you want a weekend/one day class or an on-going thing to teach this person how to cook? Is there a particular cuisine?

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: lintygmom

                      Thanks for all the advice! My friend lives off of CA at Fillmore. He does have transportation, so driving is not an issue. I think weekend classes are a bit more relaxing, so one doesn't have to rush off after work. I was mostly considering a good one day class or short series. My friend already enjoys cooking quite a bit...maybe in the intermediate camp. Open as far as cuisine type goes.

                      So far, I'm gravitating towards Shuna's and Tante Marie's classes. Another friend recommended Emily Della's First Class Cooking, but after reading about her classes, I'm not sure if I'm convinced (mostly because it looks like a small kitchen and doesn't offer much participation).


                      1. re: blackbirdpie

                        For pure convenience, I would recommend First Class Cooking, run by a women named Emily Della out of her home in Pacific Heights (just a few blocks from where your friend lives!)

                        A coworker went earlier this week, and absolutely loved it. And, she sells gift certificates on her website: http://www.emilydellas.com/About.html

                        1. re: blackbirdpie

                          I have taken a few classes at Emily Della's and it's a lot of fun! She does cook from her home, but the size of her kitchen is ridiculous. I don't think I have ever seen as much counter space in my life. So basically it's very spacious, everybody fits comfortably and is involved in the cooking process. Her recipes are simple and delicious, things you can actually recreate at home. I think what I like the most about them is that she actually teaches you a lot about techniques (like chopping herbs), selecting fresh produce, and things of the sort. I consider myself to be a pretty good cook already but I always learn something new when I go to Emily's.

                      2. My husband took a "Dungeness crab season" cooking class at Two in SOMA last year and loved it. The chef encouraged active participation and, from what I heard, the wine flowed freely. I'm definitely going to join him next time.

                        1. For Thai, hands down, Kasma Loha-unchit in Oakland - http://www.thaifoodandtravel.com/

                          Kasma is an AMAZING teacher. Her classes are fun, and you are definitely NOT sitting in a chair, watching her cook. You will chop the ginger, pound the galanga, slice the peppers. She also cares to use locally, organically, and/or sustainably grown produce and meats whenever possible. Kasma has classes right in her home, just off of Piedmont Avenue. I attended her classes for about 2 years (beginning through advanced) and couldn't eat in any Thai restaurant then, and for a long time after that.

                          1. I would recommend Simmer & Sear www.simmerandsear.com, the classes are small and very intimiate. Chef Anna is relaxed and gets everyone involved. No sitting down like at Sur La Table. Very interactive and she rents bveautiful unique homes in San Francisco to host her parties. Highly recommended!

                            1. Yes, check out Viva Cucina in Danville. www.vivacucina.com. I took several classes there and they are hands-on. The owner does a great job in helping you learn the various techniques and their menu and recipe collection out does any cooking class in the bay area. They will customize your class to your cooking skill needs. You truly learn to cook in these classes. I hope this helps!

                              1. Sur La Table cooking classes are almost all hands-on. Very few are demo only. You can also book private classes at Sur La Table. I am most familiar with the Palo Alto one. You can email the Culinary staff at whichever is most convenient for you by going to surlatable.com and finding the cooking classes site most convenient. I can also recommend Steve Cortez for private cooking classes in many different cuisines. You can reach him at cortez_sc@yahoo.com. I helped him with a private tamale class at xmas and it was excellent.

                                1. As an alternative to a class in a school, you might consider hiring a personal chef or caterer to go to your friend's home and teach him how to cook something. That can be very hands-on, very personalized, and can teach him how to utilize the equipment he already has in his own kitchen. If a one-on-one session is too intimidating, your friend can invite guests and turn it into a small cooking-instruction dinner party. I have a chef friend or two willing to do this, but I'm sure Chowhounds can also come up with plenty of recommendations.