As the great Julia Child once advised: “Learn how to cook. Try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and, above all, have fun.”
It may have taken a global pandemic and year-long lockdown, but people are finally putting down their smartphones, picking up whisks, and heeding Child’s advice.
While the rise in cooking at home was born during early shelter-in-place mandates (we all remember the sourdough baking craze), our appetite to learn new techniques has grown stronger over the past three years. As a result, cooking classes across the Bay Area are selling out weeks, and sometimes months, in advance.
It seems that cooking at home out of necessity hasn't caused fatigue; it's actually ignited a new batch of budding home chefs. (One study found that nearly half of U.S. survey respondents have been cooking more often since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.)
For some, this phenomenon comes as no surprise, given the soul-soothing powers of a homemade meal enjoyed in good company.
“Cooking is really about taking care of people,” says chef Jason McKinney, founder of Oakland-based Truffle Shuffle. “Food is love.”
As we approach the third anniversary of COVID, it's a timely moment to highlight the most innovative Bay Area cooking classes that are building community and teaching us to sauté, flambé, braise, and share the love.
Aedan Koji Kitchen
Humble miso is the life of the party at Aedan Koji Kitchen.
Once upon a time in Japan, the Samurai class hosted miso parties called shiruko. Guests would come together to eat pots of miso soup, drink sake, sing, and join in miso-centered camaraderie. At Aedan Koji Kitchen, Mariko Grady is on a mission to bring fermentation knowledge and Japanese traditions to the Bay Area. The small store houses a variety of products, including miso paste that’s 80 years old. While sake drinking isn’t usually part of her monthly miso classes ($60), students definitely enjoy plenty of miso-making fun. Every participant takes home one-and-a-half pounds of the umami-laden paste, plenty to create your own shiruko. –M.C. // 613 York St. (Mission), aedansf.com
Cooking With Comedians at Napa’s Meritage Resort
At Cooking With Comedians, a sense of humor is the first ingredient.
(Courtesy of Meritage Resort)
Adding a self-described “capricious” comic to a butter-poached lobster demo might sound like a recipe for chaos, but entertainer Jeff Capri delivers just the right dash of humor by giving voice to the questions many of us do not dare ask: “How in the hell do you pronounce ‘Bearnaise’ anyway?” A funny guy in his own right, chef Bryan Gardner doesn't miss a beat, making the French sauce less daunting by suggesting that “it’s just Hollandaise with tarragon.” Gardner, who was chef de cuisine at the Relais & Châteaux properties prior to joining Meritage, says he aims to make even the most sumptuous menus approachable in his monthly classes ($130). Fait accompli! –V.D. // 875 Bordeaux Way (Napa), meritageresort.com
The Cheese School of San Francisco
It's hard work learning about cheeses and their perfect pairings at The Cheese School, but somebody's gotta do it.
San Francisco’s Cheese School is located in the only certified creamery in the city. With weekly classes and farm tours, owner Jeanine Egan is helping others discover their love of all things curd. Whether it’s mozzarella or cheddar making, pizza making, or old world (Gruyere 1655) versus new world (Pleasant Ridge Reserve), the Cheese School does it all. They even offer a chocolate and cheese pairing class. Public service announcement: Manchego Gran Reserva and Ritual Ecuador chocolate actually taste like s’mores when eaten together. Who knew? For added entertainment, take a class ($125 to $145) taught by Matt DeLoach, one of only 56 cheese sensory evaluators in the world. –M.C. // 2535 3rd St. (Dogpatch), thecheeseschool.com
Bake a Ukrainian honey cake with chef Anna Voloshyna on March 14th.
(Courtesy of Truffle Shuffle)
Think of Oakland-based Truffle Shuffle’s daily digital classes as a gourmet music festival headlined by Michelin-starred chefs from the intimacy of their kitchens, cinematically broadcast to your home via Zoom. If that doesn't sound cool enough, the classes are also free, though you may choose to purchase ingredient kits. Buoyed by an unexpectedly apropos trance soundtrack, pupils can master a Ukrainian honey cake with chef Anna Voloshyna ($150 ingredient kit) or pasta sauce techniques starring the brand's Truffle Carpaccio ($40) with chef Tucker Ricchio. And while classes can teach students to handle decadent ingredients like caviar, pork belly, and Wagyu beef, CEO Jason McKinney says the real problem that he and his team aim to solve is “the return of quality time with loved ones.” –V.D. // Online classes at truffleshufflesf.com
Ooh la la, learn to make profiteroles (and more) at Draegers.
(Courtesy of @draegerscookingschool)
Draegers looks more like an upscale department store than a supermarket. Chocolates glisten like jewels in the pastry showcase. Truffles imported from Italy and cheeses from France line the aisles like bright pieces of couture. Naturally, the store’s weekly classes often evoke a sense of glamour, such as “Mangia! Mangia! Mangia! ($105, March 24th) or “Dinner at the Kasbah” ($105, April 21st). Most classes are in demonstration format, allowing students to enjoy a glass of wine while learning to make dishes once eaten by the likes of Audrey Hepburn. That said, there are still plenty of opportunities to roll up your sleeves—or pull off your satin gloves—and get your hands dirty. –M.C. // 222 E. 4th Ave. (San Mateo) and 1010 University Dr. (Menlo Park), draegerscookingschool.com
Life is an educational dinner party at the Mission's 18 Reasons.
(Courtesy of 18 Reasons)
Nonprofit and local institution 18 Reasons has been educating and serving the community for over a decade. With its charred wood façade and polished concrete floor, the space cuts an intimidating scene for the uninitiated. Yet, every night behind the center’s colossal steel and glass doors, awaits a welcoming crew of volunteers and instructors who offer the intangible, precious gift of believing in all of the students in the room. In our sourdough galette lesson, people who had never held a chef’s knife learned to deftly slice citrus into delicate octagons. Other classes we’d like to try? Malaysian chili crab, Mumbai street food, and soufflé au chocolat inspired by none other than Julia Child. –V.D. // 3674 18th St. (Mission) 18reasons.org