You're in good hands with Kelsie Kerr.
There is cooking school and there is cooking school. The former is characterized by students in an auditorium wearing white coats intent on learning about brunoising, mother sauces, sanitation, hotel pans and ice sculpture. The latter comes in the form of an intimate class situated in a beautiful setting filled with a small group of people who just want to learn how to make a good dinner, all lead by a sweet Sissy Spacek-alike who coauthored the recent cookbook The Art of Simple Cooking with Alice Waters.
You’ll find this out at Cavallo Point (which you’ll see featured for its great restaurant, Murray Circle, in our upcoming October issue) and where Kelsie Kerr has been put in charge of the cooking school that launched its program this month. Kerr has been a fixture on the scene for quite a while. She spent 2002 to 2006 as a chef at Chez Panisse and before that, ran her own cooking school out of her former Bayview house, situated above her metal-sculptor husband’s studio. (This was the Bayview before the Bayview was the Bayview, if you know what I mean.) She was also the opening chef at Café Rouge. Not surprisingly, the school is offering simple Chez-Panisse-y kind of classes because Kerr’s the type of woman who's recently getting into whole grains (hippy food is haute again) and makes things like sausages, tomato salad, mashed potatoes and sautéed zucchini and peppers for her family’s dinner (which is what she cooked the other night).
A peak into the cooking school facility.
When I spoke to her, she was headed to a class that would including a tasting of nine different kind of apples, as well as making a fennel, apple and Little Gem salad and baked apples stuffed with butter and pounded cloves. Although the October calendar is just being posted, upcoming classes include one on melons (they’re coming in late this season), a class on salt and a class on dry rubs. The classes, however, that sound extra cool are the “Learning Vacations,” which includes an “Olive Oil 101,” including a trip out to the most beautiful McEvoy Ranch.
Kerr admits that her secret to cooking success has really been taken from her mentor: Good ingredients=good food. “When I started cooking, I’d go home from work and my choice of places to shop was so disappointing. But now I can go out as a normal citizen and buy any ingredients that restaurants are using. Things have changed so much!”
As someone who’s reported on the Chez Panisse-ites for years, I’ve come to realize that they tend towards the earnest and respectful. Getting something juicy—or even remotely scandalous (I’m thinking a high fructose–corn syrup weakness or something)—out of them is tough. So when I asked Kerr for a guilty pleasure, she hesitated, “It’s terrible. I don’t have many,” she said, almost forlornly. “I love salty things, I guess.” She paused again, trying to drum something up. “And I’d eat a whole bowl of whipped cream.”