Sharpening their skills at cooking classes

Home cooks get a chance to up their kitchen game at area cooking classes

  • Chef Richard Hoffman teaches a basic French Cusine cooking class at the Baltimore International College.
Chef Richard Hoffman teaches a basic French Cusine cooking… (Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore…)
September 28, 2010|By Laura Vozzella, The Baltimore Sun

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 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 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 or by calling 410-386-8100.

Annapolis Whole Foods Culinary Center

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