From mad knife skills to crazy flavor explosions, home cooks are snapping up culinary classes across the state. Local chefs teach techniques and new creations to food fans at every level. Here are a few of Ohio’s best.
Laurel Run Cooking School
Far into fall, Marcia DePalma steps outside her Laurel Run Cooking School to cut herbs and harvest vegetables from her 11-acre homestead outside Vermilion.
From sautéing to frying and braising, DePalma emphasizes technique and food science. “Technique is what makes you a better cook. Once you understand food science, you can make any dish.” A globetrotter with her husband Dan, DePalma might share Spanish tapas from Barcelona one month, while Instructor George Soos highlights his family’s Hungarian favorites with chicken paprikash.
Tickets fly out the window when the two face off for “Cooks’ Challenge,” their take on a Bobby Flay-style throwdown. The class’s 30 students do the voting, and to date, the challenges stand at one tie, six wins for DePalma and five for Soos. They’re ready to rumble.
Western Reserve Cooking School
This Hudson landmark of 45 years is always looking to grow, last year adding a school in Cleveland and this fall moving classes into cooks’ homes.
The new home-cooking classes allow hosts to invite pals over to prep and cook under the guidance of a Western Reserve pro. “We’ll be there to make sure the timing’s right,” says co-owner Carl St. John, “so at the end everyone can sit down and have a nice meal.”
The school’s most popular classes never waver: “Friday Date Nights” sell out quickly, with spins around the world to dine in Napa Valley, Burgundy and Florence. Fans jump on Master Baker Kathy Lehr’s classes in classic French bread and authentic Napoletana pizza, and families zero in on parent-and-child cooking.
Culinary Vegetable Institute
When Chef Jamie Simpson needs fresh greens for his cooking classes at the Culinary Vegetable Institute in Milan, the Chef’s Garden Farm is just down the road.
The Huron farm, run by the Jones family, supplies the freshest ingredients to Simpson, executive chef liaison at the Institute, as well as to such luminaries as Daniel Boulud, Michel Richard and Thomas Keller. The Joneses grow more than 100 varieties of microgreens and such specialties as mini-carrots and white strawberries.
Simpson will lead classes in sauces (November) and holiday desserts (December). The format includes a demonstration, tasting, recipes, and a bit of kitchen work.
Columbus Culinary Institute at the Bradford
The school has five working kitchens, to simulate a real-life setting. “Ninety percent of what we have in the building is what students will see in the real world,” says Chef Matt Schenk, director of the Culinary Arts Program. “They learn from local chefs and experts, and this year, we’re adding sous vide (a method of cooking vacuum-sealed food in a controlled-temperature water bath).”
Outside the kitchen, students learn to place food orders, evaluate ingredients, control costs and maintain sanitation standards. There’s also an emphasis on employee management skills, service, and management and safety procedures.