Cooking Course in SF Bay Area
I live Palo Alto and am interested in developing my cooking skills and think I need a cooking course to take it to the next level. I'm comfortable in the kitchen and can follow a recipe but don't have the technical basics that I think I need.
Sur la Table, Whole Foods, Palo Alto Adult Education, Williams and Sonoma all offer cooking classes, but these are just one-off three hour sessions on how to cook two specific Spanish or Mexican or whatever dishes.
I want something that will take me through knife skills, sauces and then on to more substantial things.
I am from Mountain View, and I have taken classes at Tante Marie, Sur La Table, and the International Culinary Center in Campbell.
For me, I take cooking classes to learn new techniques. I can follow a recipe, but I want to learn how to chop faster (and correctly), grill better, poach correctly, make a sauce, etc. I'm not as concerned about learning specific recipes because I think technique is more important.
Tante Marie was the most awful experience I have ever had. There was no lesson plan, ad hoc instruction, and the owner was incredibly rude and condescending. She was not listed as an instructor for the Basics Series, but she decided to join the real instructor and just ruined everything with incorrect instructions, name calling, and constantly yelling across the kitchen. We were just given recipes, no lesson, and told to break off in groups to do it ourselves while the owner drifted around handing out insults. For a basics class, there needs to be instruction because the recipes used a lot of jargon (and had confusing typos). We were really left to our own devices to decipher the recipe and cook the food. Do not take a class here. It's not worth it. (Edit: this review very accurately sums up the owner's "teaching" style: http://www.yelp.com/biz/tante-maries-...)
I took the pasta making class at Sur La Table in Los Gatos, and it was wonderful. The tables are arranged so that we can make our food individually with the instructors leading us every step of the way (instead of breaking off in groups to figure it out ourselves, like at Tante Marie). We were all facing inward and toward the instructor with our own working space. I really loved this class. It was hands-on with lots of guidance and opportunities to ask questions.
I did a corporate team building event at International Culinary Center, and it was good (but not as good as Sur La Table). There was a lesson at the beginning, but like Tante Marie, we were told to break off in groups and follow the recipe on our own. Each group did one course, so we didn't get an opportunity to learn every course. The instructors did a better job of floating around than the Tante Marie instructors.