Cooking Classes to Spice Up Your Kitchen

Learn how to add excitement to your at-home meals

By Chelsea Lin

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August 11, 2016

This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Seattle Magazine.

“The best thing in the world is when someone makes you dinner,” says Bonny Giardina, studio manager at Hipcooks, a cooking school in South Lake Union. And she’s right. We devote many pages in this magazine to discussions of what the city’s chefs might cook us for dinner, but the (less exciting) truth is that many of our meals—like yours—are eaten at home. But just because we can’t all be James Beard Award–winning chefs doesn’t mean we don’t secretly aspire to cook like them in our own kitchens. These cooking schools—with offerings that range from fundamentals, such as teaching knife skills, to the esoteric, such as learning how to create Paris-Brest (a fancy French ring-shaped dessert made of choux pastry)—are here to help you up your game in the kitchen, whomever you’re planning to cook for at home.

The Pantry
Follow the garden-lined rock path behind Delancey’s bustling dining room, located in an eastside residential pocket of Ballard, and you’ll find yourself at the door of The Pantry, which includes two kitchens with communal farm tables (a second classroom was added earlier this year). Those farm tables play a major role at the cozy, shabby chic, self-proclaimed “community kitchen”—both literally and figuratively. Owner Brandi Henderson—former Delancey executive pastry chef—opened The Pantry in 2011, and soon had built the kind of class schedule that makes Instagramming foodies salivate: craft cocktails, jam making (with instructors from California jam god Blue Chair Fruit), whole-animal butchery, even food photography and writing. She employs teachers like legendary local bartender Anna Wallace of Seattle Seltzer, pastry chef Laura Pyles and cookbook author Becky Selengut, among many others. “I want our classes to feel fresh, technically challenging and relevant to how people are cooking and eating today,” Henderson says. “Less Julia Child, more David Chang.” The classes, for as many as 15 students, almost always sell out—occasionally within hours of when the season’s schedule is posted to the website (sign up on the site to receive email notifications). Henderson’s goal of building community extends beyond the courses; the space also hosts cookbook potlucks, food swaps, power lunches for food-focused entrepreneurs and “family” dinners open to the public. $70–$500; classes run from two and a half hours to two days. Ballard, 1417 NW 70th St.; 206.436.1064; thepantryseattle.com

Hot Stove Society 
A lot of time and research went into the opening of Hot Stove Society—after all, Tom Douglas wouldn’t put his name on any old cooking school. When he discontinued his incredibly popular adult-only culinary “summer camp” after seven years, Douglas enlisted Bridget Charters, a 17-year veteran of The Art Institute of Seattle, to help open Hot Stove on the second floor of Hotel Andra in 2014. The industrial space can accommodate private demo events with as many as 50 in attendance down to hands-on classes with just 10 students. Many classes draw on the talent base in the Tom Douglas Restaurants pool (Chris Schwarz, Herschell Taghap, even Douglas himself) as instructors. Charters’ goal from the beginning was to design classes that “had more street cred and were more technically challenging.” In other words, not just building knife skills, but also making pro-level pasta, folding traditional dumplings with local food writer Hsiao-Ching Chou, working with peak-season produce, learning about wine and hosting internationally renowned guest chefs and cookbook authors. Not surprisingly, one of the most popular classes is a lesson in how to make Douglas’ legendary coconut cream pie. $50–$100; events run from one and a half to two and a half hours. Downtown, 2000 Fourth Ave.; 206.436.0383; hotstovesociety.com

Whisk

Like driving a new car or putting on a new dress, there’s something deeply satisfying about breaking in a brand-new kitchen—something many of us won’t get to experience at home. The lifelong dream of retired Bellevue couple Ann and Don Perinchief, Whisk opened in Bellevue in February, and is one of the few options for cooking courses on the Eastside. There are more than 10 classes offered a week, but at this new spot, students will find that everything—from the orange KitchenAid mixers to the perfectly pressed potholders—still gleam and look brand new. The modern, colorful kitchen features hands-on cooking stations for 16 students. Classes range from learning fundamentals like pie dough and egg-cooking techniques to mixology and creating farm-to-table lunches. Those who like to entertain will want to check out the monthly “Make Ahead Three-Course Dinner Party” series. There’s a lovely retail space as well, stocked with a small but well-curated assortment of high-end items, from stemware to Pacific Northwest–sourced sea salts, essential to cooking and entertaining. And don’t worry if you show up hungry; you’ll find wine and cheese or orange juice and baked goods (depending on the time of day) to nibble and sip during class. $60–$110; classes run from one to three and a half hours. Bellevue, 10385 Main St.; 425.922.9575; whiskcooks.com

Diane’s Market Kitchen

This is the smallest school (literally) on this list, started by former caterer Diane LaVonne. She hosts hands-on classes of just six–10 students at a time, making for an intimate environment in which you get to know LaVonne personally (and she’s an interesting woman: a graduate in anthropology and history; a career in health care and pharmaceuticals; a martial arts teacher; and a school board member). Classes are heavily influenced by the proximity of LaVonne’s kitchen to Pike Place Market, which is just steps away. The kitchen doesn’t look dramatically different from a well-loved, well-stocked home kitchen. She even offers a tour of the Market and a demonstration of how to make an improvised lunch with what she’s purchased. Don’t expect a lot of fussy techniques and fancy ingredients here. LaVonne says she aims to send guests home with simple, healthful recipes, heavy on seafood and seasonal veggies. $50–$150; classes run from two to three and a half hours. Downtown, 1101 Post Ave.; 206.624.6114; dianesmarketkitchen.com

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