Cooking in the City: Prepare a Meal and . . . Enjoy It!

Fri, 03-16-2012
By: Mindy Sherman Hannigan

Culinary classes are emerging as one of the top entertainment attractions in Chicago and the suburbs. From date night to ladies night, quality time with a family member or intensive boot camp, there is a diverse selection for every interest and skill level. Learning how to cook does not require a culinary degree and can be an enjoyable entertainment experience thanks to over a hundred options from a diverse variety of venues. 

Learning how to cook can be either a social experience or a more focused classroom experience. If you are not sure where to begin, start by deciding on a location. Residents, visitors and tourists can all enjoy many diverse venues, but each has a different approach and focus. Larger schools or businesses offer classes that are meant to be more educational and professional. If that is not what you are looking for, there has been a surge of smaller businesses run out of storefronts, as well as independent chefs who travel to your house for a more social and entertaining event. 

There are several top-notch culinary schools here that offer classes to the public. This author has taken a class at Kendall College through their series called Spice Up Your Life. The topics included in the series are expansive, from kitchen basics like building sauces and knife skills to meat-specific courses and bread-making. The large, professional kitchens set the tone and the focus here is on the rapid learning of newly acquired skills.
For example: Kendall College
and local colleges

Store-front and loft locations offer intimate instruction, ideal if something more casual like spending an evening or afternoon with friends or a loved one sounds more appealing to you. Everything from group classes to private instruction is offered. In many cases a group class will focus on preparation of a full menu. Either your group will create the entire menu together or work on different menu items in separate, small groups.
For example: 
Coq au VinBespoke, or The Chopping Block

After attending a few different types of classes, I definitely prefer learning the entire meal. I gained the knowledge and skill to prepare a great meal; near perfect over time, every time. There is a lot of basic kitchen wisdom I mastered along the way as well.

In addition to the culinary schools in Chicago and the suburbs, local school and community centers also have many programs worth looking into.
For example: Whole Foods, Calphalon, Sur La Table, Williams & Sonoma, Chicago Parks District

There are also a number of individuals and companies catering to home parties or those who simply want to learn at home.
For example: 
Rajana’s  Indian Cooking  and  Naveen’s Cuisine  

The resources I would suggest for finding courses are searching cooking classes, culinary classes at Yelp and using the comprehensive list the Chicago Tribune compiled with of all the class styles in Chicago and surrounding suburbs.

Cooking classes have paid off many times over by making food preparation at home a delight for me. I have never experienced such a gratifying feeling from all the skills I have learned, from only three classes none the less. I met some great people and made some great contacts in classes, but also expanded my kitchen vocabulary and skills tremendously. 

The next culinary classroom I want to find myself at will be for Indian cooking, bread baking, and meat preparation, followed by knife skills, sushi, and cake decorating.

What’s yours?

Buen provecho! Bon Appetit! Enjoy your meal!