Have you ever taken a one day cooking class ?
I always laugh looking back at the Italian cooking class I took with my sister at the CIA in St Helena.We were waiting for the class to start and people were asking if this was hands on or a demonstration.Little imformation was provided.We walk into this beautiful kitchen on the top floor of the building.It was huge.After a short introduction of the chef and her cookbook.She had each pair of students cook one of the twelve recipies provided from her book.We ended up with pork marsala.Here's the recipie and the ingredients for the dish,she said. You have one hour. My sister cant cook at all.I have to slice and pound the pork into cutlets.The other people in the class are scrambling to put together their assigned recipies. Oh, and two of the stoves were not working. It was loud pounding the cutlets on that metal table even with a towel underneath.I'm kinda having fun with all the chaos.My sister is helping me out.Must be the wine being poured.Got the dish ready at the last minute.I had to wait for a stove. Ended up sneaking some butter into the recipie. Then we ate all of the dishes and gave them a critic.Was it fun ? YES. Did you learn anything.NO.
Would you take a one day class again? Not Sure. So,have you taken a cooking class? Was it fun and did you learn anything? Or want to take one?
I have been worried about such experiences when looking for cooking class, which is why I ended up going to weekend class at the local culinary school in Chicago.
If I am taking a cooking class, it is for fun sure but I want to get something out of it.
In that way, I have always gone to hands on classes
It took two 1 day class at the Kendall institute.
overall I really liked them. Everyone did their own stuff, it was hands on, explanation from the teacher/chef then go on and do it yourself. I did the fish class and the sauce class.
The one drawback was that some of the work had to be prepped by the students in advance for the class to have enough stuff for a full day:
stock was premade, fish was sometimes cooked for us (though it was 1 out of 5 dishes), some veggies were pre-cut . But we did learn how to do it. The school only did that so we could get as much as possible from the few hours we had, which is appreciable.
not everything was new, for sure, but I learned a few tricks and some good basics on things I was not usually confortable with.
I considered taking the classes at the fun chain another poster went to, and decided against it because it is all demo and had the reputation of being too "beginner/fun night out" style.
Anyone tried an online course? just saw a post about rouxbe on this board...wondering if there are real pro course online for the amateur that is serious about picking up his skills.
While on vacation, a friend and I took a class at The 700 Kitchen Cooking School: Mansion on Forsyth Park in Savannah. It was fun and we did learn some - (ala Alton Brown).
A local tech school offers a "cookie class" near the holidays. It's not really for learning. Everyone makes two types of cookies and then we all exchange. One full day and you come home with about a dozen each of about 10 different cookies. Makes for pretty platters.
An answer from a slightly different perspective -- I am a retired teaching chef and have taught many avocational classes in addition to teaching at a professional school. My preference is for "hands-on" classes although they require much more work on my part than demonstration classes. There is also a lot more $$money$$ in demo classes since I do not have to limit the number of students so severely.
Having said this, I don't think students learn as much from watching me as they do actually doing the work themselves. I already know how to accomplish the tasks; watching me is not the same as you getting the feel of the dough or thinly slicing the apples or whatever. I can tell you about sauteeing a paillard but until you actually do it, you will not have the same knowledge. There's something visceral about the hands-on experience that imprints the task on your brain.
Students come in all stripes as well. Many are just out for a fun time and have little/no interest in acquiring kitchen skills while others are seriously interested in learning. Some may just want bragging rights ("I took a class from Chef XYZ").
Ask questions before signing up. That's the bottom line.
My wife and I took a one day class...really about a 4 or 5 hour class, in Rome a couple of years ago. It was small, only 6 students, I think, and taught by an english speaking chef at his restaurant in Trastevere. It was one of the best expeperiences we've ever had. I learned to make pasta that day, and everytime I use his recipe for pasta carbonara it brings back fond memories for both of us.
I don't recall ever taking a full day cooking class. I have taken many which were several hours - either stand alone or part of a series.
I took several series of classes from a particular instructor when I was just out of college. The first was Quick & Easy cooking. It was hands on and a lot of fun. It provided some much needed instruction in being able to get a meal on the table quickly. Many of the recipes are no longer ones I cook now but they were a good first step.
I attended "Canning College" at a Cooperative Extension office. It was a monthly series of 3-4 hour hands on classes covering all aspects of home canning. It provided me with the basics. It was terrific being able to practice at home and then have the instructors help in troubleshooting at the next class.
Many techniques become clearer when you can see the steps done by a skilled instructor. I had some success learning sausage making and lacto-fermentation on my own. Taking workshops with professionals really clarified aspects and helped up my game much faster than experimenting on my own.
I've also been the invisible assistant for book tour instructors. Not all knowledgeable people shine at this task. But I always feel I have gained if I walk away with one good new concept.
I have attended classes where it basically was listening to an author ramble while watching him from a distance. The rambling was dull and the task demonstrated was too nuanced to glean much from being far away. Now I do ask pointed questions about the class if the description is unclear. I don't have the time or extra cash to waste if the class isn't designed to meet my needs.
I like to learn. Sometimes a class helps you break out of a plateau and enter a new level of skill/perception. A good class is a chance to be inspired, be surrounded by passionate people and have a great experience to boot!
Never a one day class. Years ago, neighor talks me and another friend into a French cooking class... took virtually NO talking for us to opt in. Night class at local HS.
Instructor was a super cool woman, from France... reminded me of Madeline Camin (spelliing?). We didn't fo anything Froo Froo... cooked like a typical French family would. Didn't get a full meal, but a nice taste of whatever was on the menu for the night... chicken in a lemon/cream sauce, rabbit, duck, and several other things. Some kind of sides and dessert, too.
At end of FIRST class... we were thinking... we need to end this class with COFFEE!! Then came nice bread/butter for dipping. By last class, we had WINE... possible a no no, but not a problem.
Several, mostly in Europe (i.e. pasta in Italy, truffles in Croatia). The most recent was in Paris. My preference is hands on - have not been to demo only classes. I teach cooking classes myself that are very specific such as cooking with herbs in summer, making dressings/vinaigrettes, braising, gluten-free baking, cooking with cheese, etc. My classes are extremely hands on and the greatest compliments I receive are such as, "Before this class I hated lamb. Now I cook it often!" Seeing passion in others' eyes is the best feeling ever.
I've taken classes at Sur La Table - pasta making, sausage making, cheese making, cooking from the farmers market, etc. The classes are much more organized than the one you describe and class kitchen is very well equipped due to the place being a cooking store. Instructors for the most part do a decent job of demonstrating, then walking around as pairs or small groups practice.
Real chefs would, of course, be bored but I find them relaxing, fun, and a nice way to be exposed to a new technique or cuisine that I haven't experienced before.
I've taken a few "classes" over the years and enjoy them but don't always learn very much. I enjoy the experience and if I walk away with one new technique I'm happy. Most of the classes I've taken have been "demonstration classes" though very "hands on" in that they were small groups in a real kitchen watching the chef make the dishes. Occasionally one of us would be in charge of watching a pot or trying a technique - but not as free form as what you've described.
My favorite ones and what I feel I walked away with besides the recipes and memories
Eric Ripert - learned 3 ways he poaches fish and that his palate is insanely fine tuned - and he was insanely pleasant (for a french chef haha)
Marco Canora - his gnocchi technique which is very visual and I don't think i would have understood without the class. and how he handles octopus (it was delicious)
Nadia Irigoyen - her ceviche was wonderful (topped with popcorn) and she puts fish in the blender (with ginger, lime, etc) when making her ceviche. It was a great way to add a depth of flavor that I had never tried.
A chef from Italy (who's name I don't remember) - who used spinach powder in his pasta, I had never even heard of spinach powder but it made the most evenly colored wonderfully tasting spinach pasta
Francois Payard - (more in line with what I expected from a french trained chef) but being able to feel his pastry doughs was invaluable and watching him make caramel - actually seeing into the pan - was a big take away.
So while we made many many recipes across all of these classes, what I learned was often what amounted to more "little take aways" or "tricks". So I often tell people when they ask about cooking classes, that they need to adjust down their expectations of what they are really going to be walking away with.
But that said, even with watching relatives or people's grand mothers making pasta/bread/pies/etc - it took me watching and doing it with them many many times before I really felt like I had "learned" their techniques, so I'm not sure how fair it is to expect much more from a class.
As long as you enjoyed yourself and they kept the wine flowing I'd say it was a success :)
well I'm embarrassed by my post now but its far to late to delete it - it comes off as very name dropping and snooty, which wasn't my intent but in trying to keep it short and give credit where credit was due that is how it reads to me too - lesson learned . . . be careful what you type on these boards ;)
He did a class at a food event in Colorado that at the time was sponsored by Bon Appetit. It was a 3-4 hour class followed by lunch. It was great fun. I just was lucky enough to buy a ticket before they sold out (I think there were maybe 15 of us in that class). I'm not exactly sure why he agreed to do it but very glad he did and it was very enjoyable.
Mine was with a local chef originally from the Netherlands. Great restaurant. Fusion of everything Euro and Florida. Wasteless for acquiring skills or techniques. Ended up paying $75 to eat boring food and getting the recipes for the 4 course meal.
Not all great chefs are passable instructors.
When I first got interested in cooking, I took a handful of them at the Viking Cooking School on Atlanta, where I lived at the time. I really enjoyed them and learned a lot, especially about knife skills.
When I travel, I always try to hunt one down. I've done several day classes in Thailand (and a week-long one), and plenty one day courses in different places in Europe. I honestly think I would not be half the home cook I am without the skills I gained in these classes.
I've been thinking of taking a knife skills class at a local cooking school (one designed for fun, not careers), but I'm not interested in super-beginner stuff or knife safety - I know how to curl my fingers, sharpen a knife, etc. Can you tell me anything about your knife skills class?
I took a knife class designed for fun. It was definitely a beginners class. The best thing I got out of was getting to try out different brands of knives, and I ended up buying one (Global). This was at a kitchenware store in Chicago that has lots of classes. So unless the class description says it's not for beginners, I wouldn't do it.
The highest "level" I took was intermediate. We practiced boning chicken, some fish, and fancier cuts for fruits and veg.
For more advanced home cooks like most here, it might not be useful. But I never started really cooking until I moved back after living in Thailand for a year, and we bought a house that had a beautiful kitchen (I can brag it up now, because we're not there anymore). It was 6 years ago. I just sort of stood there and resolved to learn to use that kitchen so I could recreate the food I loved there. So I just started taking courses. I only chose hands on classes. If you can find a somewhat advanced class, I'd say go for it. You'll only lose a couple of hours if it wasn't worth it.