Sharpening their skills at cooking classes

Rich Hoffman, a chef-instructor at Baltimore International College, shared some culinary truisms with students in his French cuisine class last week.

"Everything's better with bacon."

"Never, ever, ever add alcohol to a pan on an open flame."

And, when marinating chicken pieces in red wine overnight for coq au vin, expect this: "Your chicken is going to turn purple. It's supposed to. Don't freak out."

Hoffman teaches aspiring professional chefs at BIC, but the 30 students in this class were there simply to sharpen their skills as home cooks. The course was one of about two dozen "Food Enthusiast" classes that the culinary school started offering to the general public for the first time this fall. Course titles range from "How to Make Thanksgiving Dinner" to "Cheese Making."

"People want to learn how to cook again," Hoffman said. "It's a good feeling to make something."

BIC is one of many places offering both demonstration and hands-on classes to accomplished and novice home cooks. The approach can vary greatly, from straightforward community college and cooking school fare to restaurant-based classes that could pass for a wine-soaked night on the town.

Ed Gregg, a retired Bethlehem Steel manager from Westminster, learned to make chicken, vegetable and veal stocks in a soup class at Carroll Community College. Then he went back to learn bread baking.

"I definitely like the community college route — no-nonsense, real instruction with hands-on activity ending with a tasting of the various things we made," said Gregg, 66. "And a reasonable price."

Many area restaurants, including Pierpoint, Sotto Sopra and RA Sushi in Baltimore, are inviting customers to learn directly from their chefs, sometimes accompanying them to farmers' markets to pick out the ingredients. They usually sit down with the chef to the full dinner they've prepared, often with wine, when it's all over.

Some of the people in those classes are looking to replicate restaurant cuisine at home.

"The foodie bug has bitten a lot of people," said Nancy Longo, chef-owner of Pierpoint, where one of the most popular classes teaches children how to make dim sum. "And, I think, a lot of people are really trying to be conscious about what their spending is."

Others are just looking for a night out and tour of a chef's kitchen. Some of those classes are even billed as "optional hands-on" so students can feel free to just watch — and eat and drink. Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks gives participants copies of the recipes they've made and devoured in his cooking classes. A lot of them are left behind.

"Eighty percent of the people who watch the Food Network never cook," he said. "I have the feeling that 80 percent of the people who take my cooking classes never go home and cook."

Here's a sampling of area classes:

Baltimore International College

"Introduction to Cheese Making" Oct. 7, 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., $80. Learn to prepare fresh and cultured cheeses and pair them with wine.

"Classical French Cooking" Oct. 14, 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., $80. Students will produce dishes from various regions of France.

Find more information at http://www.bic.edu or by calling 410-752-4710.

Community College of Baltimore County

"What's for Dinner Tonight?" Nov. 8 and 15, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Overlea High School, 5401 Kenwood Ave., $50. Learn to make five-ingredient meals that are flavorful, affordable and ready in 25-30 minutes.

"Perfect Pasta" Dec. 7 and 14, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Carver Center for Arts and Technology, 938 York Road, $50. Learn to make homemade pasta using a hand-cranked pasta machine.

"Sauces" Oct. 18 and Nov. 8, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Perry Hall High School, 4601 Ebenezer Road, $50. Learn the fundamentals of classical and modern sauce-making using standard techniques and explore how to create variations in flavor.

Find more information at http://www.ccbcmd.edu or by calling 443-840-4700.

Carroll Community College

"The Healing Cuisine of India" Oct. 20, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Carroll County Career and Technology Center, $59. Use Indian spices, beans and grains to create nutritious and satisfying vegetarian meals. This is a demonstration class culminating with tasting.

"Gourds and Game" Oct. 18-Nov. 1 (three sessions), Carroll County Career and Technology Center, $145. Explore the tastes of stuffed Balsamic Glazed Quail, Raspberry Glazed Duck Breast Salad, Dark Cherry Glazed Roasted Goose, and more. This is a demonstration class culminating with tasting.

Find more information at http://www.carrollcc.edu or by calling 410-386-8100.

Annapolis Whole Foods Culinary Center

"Knife Skills, Part I" Oct. 11, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., $50 (also taught Oct. 25, and Nov. 15, both from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.; and Dec. 2, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.). Learn to mince, dice, brunoise, batonnet and julienne vegetables. Get comfortable at the cutting board with the chef's most important tool, learn how to select the right knife for the job at and get some valuable tips for maintaining your knives.

" Allergy-Free and Gluten-Free Cooking" Oct. 16, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., $20. Review safety in the kitchen, cross-contamination and some recipes using such alternative flours as rice flour, oat flour and buckwheat.

Find more information at wholefoodsmarket.com/storesbeta/annapolisculinary or by calling 410-224-2042.

For The Love of Food

"Pies and Tarts: A Primer" Nov. 17, 6:15 p.m. to 10:45 p.m., $75. Learn to make pies and tarts, with an all-butter tart pastry and an all-butter pie dough.

"Weekend Bread Workshop" Oct. 16 and 17, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., $250. Learn to make simple lean breads like breadsticks, baguettes and a black olive and walnut bread, then move on to richer breads like Pain de Mie (classic white bread) and finish with laminated doughs, danish and croissants.

Get more information about the Reisterstown cooking school at http://www.fortheloveoffood.com or by calling 443-865-0630.

Pierpoint restaurant

"Sauces" Oct. 30, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., $75. Learn the essentials of making classic and modern sauces such as Asian, French, Italian, Thai, Caribbean, Cajun and modern American sauces.

"Modern Thanksgiving" Nov. 6, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Instead of the same old traditional Thanksgiving foods, learn the art of smoking game, how to make truffled turkey demi glace and get new ideas for stuffing, side dishes and desserts.

"Thai Cooking" Nov. 13, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Learn the secrets of Thai cooking, including curries, noodles, spring rolls and soups.

"Dim Sum for Kids" Oct. 10, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., $50 per person. Dumplings, spring rolls, egg rolls, sushi, fried rice and modern Asian appetizers. $50 per person. Children under the age of 10 must be accompanied by a paying parent.

Get more information at pierpointrestaurant.com or by calling 410-675-2080.

Corks

"Pinot Noir and Game Birds" Oct. 1, 6:30 p.m., $79. Taste pinot noirs from around the world while learning to cook duck, quail and pheasant and how to pair these wines with classic dishes.

Get more information at corksrestaurant.com or by calling 410-752-3810.

RA Sushi Bar

"Sushi 101" Oct. 10 and Oct. 24, 2 p.m. (Private classes available at other times by reservation), $22 per person or $40 per couple. A brief history of sushi and a sushi-rolling lesson, a nonalcoholic drink, miso soup, edamame, two maki rolls, two pieces of nigiri and a take-home sushi-rolling mat.

Get more information at rasushi.com or by calling 410-522-3200.

Sotto Sopra

"Fall Foods" Oct. 17, 1 p.m., $65. Guest chef Christian deLutis will cook in the restaurant's kitchen in this "optional hands-on" class. Students get to sit down at the end of the class for a bit of vino and taste the food that they and the chef have prepared.

Get more information at sottosoprainc.com or by calling 410-625-0534.

Williams-Sonoma, Towson

"The World Kitchen" Italian, Oct. 4, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., $45. Learn to prepare White Bean and Arugula Crostini; Fennel, Orange, and Olive Salad; Eggplant and Ricotta Rolls; Chicken Saltimbocca; Pistachio Cake.

"All About Pork" Oct. 21, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., $45. Menu: Warm Pancetta-Wrapped Endive Salad; Pork Paté; Pork Loin with Pomegranate & Orange Glaze; Bacon Ice Cream on French Toast.

Get more information by calling 410-847-9021.

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