A version of this article also appeared in the Tennessean.
Cooking classes aren’t just for acquiring new kitchen skills. Sure, you’ll learn something, but there’s so much more to them. Food connects us to cultures, traditions and family, and there’s always something new to learn. I love seeing what lense of experience and knowledge an instructor puts on a class. You could take the same class from three different instructors and come away learning very different information from each based on their backgrounds, experience and interests. And whatever the class, you’ll get to enjoy delicious food.
A recent local cooking class picture with Chef Paulette Licitra (far right).
If you’ve never taken a cooking class, there are a few things to know. First, there are different formats. Generally speaking, hands-on classes allow you to dive in and actually prepare a meal. Demonstration classes usually mean you’ll watch while someone else does the work. Some classes are a combination of the two. Sometimes you’ll enjoy a full meal; other times you get just a taste. You can usually tell what kind of class it’s going to be by the cost. Because the hands-on, full-meal classes require more food and take more staff time, they’re usually more expensive. Make sure you ask what kind of class it’ll be on the front end so you’re not surprised.
Cooking classes are also great entertainment. It’s a special person who can cook and teach a class in an educational and entertaining way. Consider a cooking class for your next date night, girls’ night out, Mother’s or Father’s Day gift, or corporate team-building activity.
One of my favorite local cooking class experiences has been with my friend Paulette Licitra, an Italian chef in Bellevue. Paulette’s classes cover all manner of Italian dishes (and other cuisines, too), and she often teaches how to make fresh pasta. I’d always wanted to learn how to do this but was intimidated by the process. Taking a class to learn seemed like a good ideas since so much of the process is done by feel.
The first time I took one of Paulette’s classes we made “handkerchief” pasta, which is small squares of dough that fold over on themselves in the sauce like cloth handkerchiefs. During another class we made homemade ravioli with a variety of fillings. Both were surprisingly easy, and oh-so delicious.
We’re lucky in Nashville, to have a variety of cooking class options. Following is a roundup of some of the ones I’ve been tuned into lately. If you know of others not listed here, please leave a comment below. Buon Appetit!
Nashville Cooking Class Roundup
Green Hills Mall, (615) 292-5066
Recent class topics have included cooking with wine, making pizza, knife skills and making ice cream. Technique classes are free, include a demonstration of the featured dish and take place at 3 p.m. on Sundays. Call for upcoming classes.
Nashville Farmers’ Market
Grow Local Kitchen, http://www.growlocalkitchen.org
Located in the Market House of the Nashville Farmers’ Market, the Grow Local Kitchen offers hands-on and demonstration classes. They recently held a preserving class called “Yes You Can!” Upcoming classes include “Biscuit Lab” and “Cornbread Lab” (multiple dates) where guests will learn tips for mastering these Southern Staples. Visit the Grow Local Kitchen site above for details.
Lisa Donovan is pastry chef at Husk Nashville and mastermind behind Buttermilk Road Sunday Suppers, a pop-up dinner series. Her September 8 Southern Basics Cooking Class sold out fast. The class was set to cover biscuits, pie dough and hand pies. Sign up for email updates on her website for future classes.
Whole Foods Salud Cooking School
Green Hills, http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/service/salud-cooking-school
Hands-on and demonstration classes cover topics like “Hosting the Perfect Tasting Party,” “Summer Bounty: Corn,” and “India: A Cook’s Tour.” Reserve your space and get more information online.
Italian Cooking Classes by Chef Paulette Licitra
Paulettes classes hold six people and last about three hours. Recent class “The Tasty Italian” featured Fresh Tomato-Ricotta Tortellini in Tomato-Herb Pesto Sauce, Baked Cod with Crispy Parmigiano Crumbs & Parsley Sauce and Creamy Ricotta-Pinoli Tart w Limoncello-Soaked Strawberries. Winter class schedule will be released soon. Visit her website to sign up for her email list.
The Casa Azafran Community Center
Nolensville Road, www.facebook.com/CasaAzafran
Led by Conexión Américas, Casa Azafran is a nonprofit collaborative committed to the social, economic and civic integration of immigrants of all cultures. Cooking class topics have included Colombian cooking by the owner of Latin restaurant Guantanamera, and making homemade pizza by Carlos Davis from Riffs Fine Street Food truck. A website launches soon. In the meantime, visit the Facebook page for class information.
Gordon Jewish Community Center
Belle Meade, www.nashvillejcc.org
Cllass topics have included cooking with herbs, making Shakshuka (a popular Israeli baked egg dish that I blogged about), and how to bake Challah bread. Classes are open to any interested community members. Visit the website for more.