Cooking classes on front burner They are more popular than ever. The offerings reflect a variety of trends.

Posted: September 14, 2006

Cooking - with style - has become a "status skill". . . just as fine dining is part of today's status lifestyle and as so many chefs have attained superstar status.

And cooking lessons, one entree into that culinary clique, have been growing steadily for the last decade.

The increasing demand for fresh, preferably organic and locally grown foods is driving many lesson plans this year, says Charlotte Ann Albertson, who has run a cooking school on the Main Line for more than 30 years. She also sees men cooking more, grills being used year-round, and more fruits and vegetables on class menus and home tables.

Those trends and more are reflected in classes this fall. (See the accompanying list for local classes.)

New to the Philly food scene will be cooking classes at Philadelphia University's new student center for students and staff, led by the school's food provider, Parkhurst Dining Services.

Ethnic cuisine - from classic French to Vietnamese with a strong sushi showing - anchors many cooking-class schedules. And thoughts of New Orleans led to Cajun cooking classes on several schedules.

After a decline that began in the mid-'80s, interest in classes revived after a start-up cable channel surprised us all by committing to round-the-clock food programming in 1992. An even bigger surprise: It drew millions of viewers.

And suddenly, legions of untrained, inexperienced would-be cooks wanted the cooking lessons they never got from Mom.

Chefs such as Emeril Lagasse became stars. And one mention of a new kitchen tool or food product on the Food Network could send sales soaring.

Where some expected all that free information and instruction to kill off demand for paid classes, the surging interest in food only boosted business at cooking schools, where the approach to cooking and classes changed. More food-as-theater events blended instruction with meals and entertainment in culinary travelogues, wine and food pairings, hands-on classes, food socials and more. Guest chefs and popular cookbook authors, now stars, packed classes.

Locally, Albertson ran more classes in more venues, making instruction more accessible. When attendance at day classes dropped, she set up evening classes that drew men out for the first time, and Sunday classes that were more convenient for working women.

Shifting gears, teachers cut classes to one hour instead of three. Longer sessions were made palatable by including not just tastings but full meals. More excursions, more couples classes, more exotic cuisines and unique themes. All proved sucessful.

Darina Allen, named cooking teacher of the year in 2005 by the International Association of Cooking Professionals, has written 14 cookbooks, including the Ballymaloe Cooking School Cookbook (Pelican, 2002) based on lessons at her school in Ireland, and her latest, Easy Entertaining (Kyle Books, $35), due out in October. As most teacher-authors do, she writes with instruction in mind, offering explanations, tips and shortcuts with recipes as self-contained cooking lessons.

Allen cofounded Ballymaloe in the middle of an organic farm in Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland, in 1983. In the years since, she has shared her skills on television and in classes across America and around the world. Her 12-week courses in Ireland typically draw students of 10 to 14 nationalities.

In town last week for an appearance on QVC, she shared her impressions of what she says has been "incredible change" in the cooking scene since she opened her school.

"In Ireland, the economy is the strongest it's ever been. People are cash-rich, but time-poor. Half the country is living out of 'hot counters,' " take-out.

"Young men on tractors, instead of going home for lunch, are picking up rashers [of bacon] and black-and-white pudding in shops."

Yet, apart from her farm location, Allen says, classes and interests are not that much different here:

"The world over, people want recipes that taste delicious, look good, and don't take too long in the kitchen. They want a lot of bang for their buck."

Allen has been at the forefront of food trends from her farm-based school to starting a produce-centered farm market in a land where livestock markets are the tradition. Her courses run from "forgotten skills" for folks who want to make butter or cheese or keep a few hens in their yards to training for would-be chefs.

Taking a page from the Ballymaloe playbook, the French Culinary Institute in New York is starting a program - Four Seasons Chef - focused on sustainable crops at the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, N.Y.

And more changes are planned at the high-profile school. The SoHo-based institute, a training ground for professional chefs since 1984 and now a destination for serious home cooks as well, will triple its space next month and potentially its enrollment. With the expansion comes with a new name - the International Culinary Center (after Oct. 15, - a reflection of having added Italian food studies earlier this year. Classes also are scheduled in Italy (at the International School of Italian Cuisine in Parma) this winter, and Japanese courses are due to begin next year.

But the biggest draw may be the tapas classes and courses in Spanish cuisine, the culinary hot button that will help launch the school's transition Oct. 13, when 10 top Spanish chefs led by master Ferran Adria convene for a culinary symposium at the institute.

Locally, tapas and Spanish cooking classes, some conducted by Jose Garces, owner-chef of Amada, are among the ethnic entries tempting students, along with instruction in Indian, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese and Hawaiian cooking.

The motivated student can find a class to meet almost any craving, from a historic meal to a course in whiskey-making. Yes, you can spend three days at a Scottish "private club" distillery, Ladybank in Fife, near Edinburgh, learning to make your own brew.

And as cooking schools have grown and matured, becoming more professional, a network of support for the many small schools and solo teachers has developed, including small-business aids from simple software to the United States Personal Chef Association ( and the Culinary Business Academy (

Contact food writer Marilynn Marter at or call 215-854-5743. Read her work at


Makes 8 to 10 servings

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 organic onion, sliced

2 organic red peppers

2 green peppers

6 large, very ripe tomatoes

Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar, to taste

A few basil leaves

1. Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole, add the garlic, and cook for a few seconds before mixing in the sliced onion. Cook, covered, on low heat until onion is soft, 5 to 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, halve, core and seed the peppers. Cut the peppers into quarters, then crossways into strips. Add to the onion, toss lightly, replace the lid and continue to cook.

3. Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 10 seconds. Drain. Peel the tomatoes, slice them, and add to the casserole. Season to taste with salt, pepper, sugar and basil. Cook until the vegetables are just soft, up to 30 minutes.

4. Serve as a side vegetable, as a sauce on pasta, grilled fish or meat, as a topping for pizza, or as filling for omelettes.

- From Easy Entertaining by Darina Allen (Kyle Books, $35).

Note: This staple sauce can also be the base of a heartier stew, Allen says. Just add a can of rinsed chick peas, haricot beans or black-eyed beans along with 4 to 8 ounces of chorizo sausage, sliced, during the final 15 minutes of cooking.

Per serving (based on 10): 53 calories, 1 gram protein, 7 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams sugar, 3 grams fat, no cholesterol, 5 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.

Seafood Couscous

Makes 4 servings

2 cups water

1 large seafood bouillon cube (9 grams) or 2 tablespoons from a jar of frozen fish fumet glace (reduced stock)

1 pound seafood (any mix of scallops, shrimp, squid rings, fish fillets, etc.), cut in bite-size pieces (see note)

1 box (7 ounces) vegetable-flavored couscous

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped Italian (flatleaf) parsley

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Stir in the bouillon to dissolve. Add the seafood; boil 30 seconds.

2. Stir in the couscous, oil and parsley. Cover, remove from heat, and set aside until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 4 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.

- From Homemade in a Hurry by Andrew Schloss (Chronicle, $19.95).

Note: Schloss, a former Restaurant School instructor and frequent guest teacher, calls this recipe a template for endless quick meals. "It will work with any type of fish, any flavor of couscous, a variety of broths, your choice of flavorful oil, and whatever herb you have on hand."

Per serving: 300 calories, 27 grams protein, 39 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams sugar, 5 grams fat, 38 milligrams cholesterol, 803 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.

Chipotle-Lime Grilled Chicken

Makes 6 servings

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons chipotle


3/4 teaspoon salt

6 large skinless, boneless chicken thighs (2-2 1/2 pounds)

2 teaspoons mild honey

1. Prepare the grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot coals or moderate-heat gas. Meanwhile, combine the lime juice, oil, Tabasco and salt in a liquid-measuring cup.

2. Put the chicken in a sealable bag. Add 1/3 cup of the marinade. (Reserve the remainder.) Seal the bag, forcing out excess air. Marinate the chicken at room temperature for 15 minutes.

3. Stir the honey into the reserved marinade to make sauce.

4. Place the thighs on on a lightly oiled rack (discard the used marinade). Cover the grill if using gas and grill until just cooked, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn and move the thighs to cook evenly.

5. Brush both sides of the chicken with reserved sauce and grill, turning once, to brown lightly, about 1 minute more.

6. Serve the chicken drizzled with the reserved sauce.

- Recipe from The Cooking Cottage cooking school in Sellersville.

Per serving: 239 calories, 30 grams protein, 2 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams sugar, 12 grams fat, 125 milligrams cholesterol, 304 milligrams sodium, no dietary fiber.

Culinary Classes

The Inquirer's cooking school listings cover most, but not all, cooking and food-related programs in the Philadelphia area. Fees include tuition and any listed costs. For details or more classes, call the school directly. Registration and prepayment are required. Schedules may change. Listing here is not an endorsement by The Inquirer of a school or instructor.You must be 21 or older to attend sessions where beer, wine or spirits are served.

Addresses are in Philadelphia unless otherwise noted.

Albertson's Cooking School, Box 27, Wynnewood. 610-649-9290, cookline99 or www.albertsoncooking Italian Market Tours, Sept. 23, Oct. 7 & 14, 8:15 a.m., $50. Behind the Scenes, Rittenhouse Hotel, lunch, plus a tour of Le Bec-Fin's pastry kitchen, Jan. 13, 10 a.m., $75.

American Swedish Historical Museum, 1900 Pattison Ave. 215-389-1776 or Swedish cooking class, date to be announced.

Book & The Cook Caffe Society at DiBruno Bros., 1730 Chestnut St., 215-665-9220, Ext. 1. Tickets at store, 215-545-4543 or www.thebookandthe Demo classes with guest cookbook authors, 6:30 p.m., fees include a copy of featured book. Fall schedule to be announced.

Christina Cooks, 243 Dickinson St. 215-551-1430, 1-800-939-3909 or At Essene Market (215-551-1430), 719 S. Fourth St., Saturday, Sept. 30, Oct. 14, 28, Nov. 4, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., $30 each. At Drexel University: Cooking Intensive, hands-on course, Sept. 22-24, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Fri-Sat, to 2 p.m. Sun, $550.

Culinary Confidence, 809 S. Hancock St. 267-546-8498. Fundamental techniques, hands-on: Knife Skills, Oct. 4, 1-4 p.m., or Oct. 11, 6-9 p.m., $65; Blanch and Saute, Oct. 18, 1-4 p.m., or Oct. 25, 6-9 p.m., $65; Braise, Roast and Poach, Nov. 8, 1-4 p.m., or Nov. 10, 6-9 p.m., $75.

Culinary Society of Philadelphia, Box 430, Wynnewood. Reserve with Gary Moskowitz, 215-635-5250. At Samba, 714 W. Girard Ave.: Churrascaria Brazilian dinner, Sept. 29, 7 p.m., $45.

Fante's, 1006 S. Ninth St, 215-922-5557 or In-store demos, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.: Kershaw knives, Saturday; Waring Pro products, Sept. 23. Cake Decorating, novice to advanced, call for dates.

Fitness Finders, regional network, 610-246-7194, 610-613-9814 or Nutrition consultation, weight management and personal chefs' services, including custom cooking class for up to 8 people, at your location.

Foster's Gourmet Kitchen, Reading Terminal Market, 12th & Arch Streets. 215-925-0950 or www.readingterminal- First Saturday free demos, at noon, monthly. Hands-on classes, Wednesdays, 5:45 p.m., $65 each: Fall dinner party, Jill Horn, Sept. 20; Cake Basics, Rebecca Michaels (Flying Monkey Patisserie), Sept 27. See also Temple University Center City.

French Communication Institute, 2013 Appletree St.; 215-568-7765. After-school programs include cooking and baking. Schedule pending. Call late September for details.

Homemade Goodies by Roz, 510 S. Fifth St. 215-592-9616 or Classes, 6-8:30 p.m., $40 (includes refreshments): Holiday Baking, Oct. 12; Cake Decorating, Oct. 19 (supplies sold separately or bring your own).

Incredible Edibles. Traveling instructor Ann-Michelle Albertson. 610-649-9290. Programs for groups or conventions at your site. No kitchen needed.

Italian Market Tour & Classes. 215-334-6008. Tour followed by classes at Claudio's Cheese and Cannuli House of Pork, Sept. 23, 10 a.m., $50 (includes Italian Market Cookbook).

JNA Institute of Culinary Arts, 1212 S. Broad St. 215-468-8801. www.culinary- Courses, hands-on, 5:45-9 p.m., from Sept. 25. Sojourns in Tasting, hands-on dinner classes, $90 (minimum of 10, by appointment or next class, Cuban Cuisine, date TBA.

Kids in the Kitchen, Norcom Community Center, 10980 Norcom Rd.; 215-613-1070 or Fun intro to cooking, nutrition and kitchen safety, 4 Thursdays, Sept. 21-Oct. 12, or Oct. 26-Nov.14, 4-5 p.m., $30. Gingerbread Workshop, Dec. 16, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., $20 per house (supplies included).

Lacroix at The Rittenhouse, 210 W. Rittenhouse Sq., 215-790-2533. Tour a farmers market, cook and dine with chef Jean-Marie Lacroix, from 10 a.m., Sept. 23, $75. Call for future dates.

Mount Airy Learning Tree, 6601 Greene St.; 215-843-6333; www.mtairylearning- At the Unitarian Society of Germantown, 6511 Lincoln Dr.: Ways to Skim the Fat (healthy alternatives), 4 Tuesdays from Sept. 19, 6:30 p.m., $65. Beyond Tofu, Sept. 27, 6:30 p.m. $30. Taylor's Wholesome Food Workshop, cook and carry meals for a week, Oct. 12, 6:30 p.m., $85. Living with a Live (Raw) Foods Diet, Oct. 19 & 26, 7 p.m., $55. Roll Your Own . . . Sushi, Nov. 1, 7 p.m., $37. Lebanese Favorites from Rinker Rock Cafe, Nov. 6, 7 p.m., $32. At Tea Country, 6722 Old York Rd., East Oak Lane: Intro to Tea, Oct. 5 or Dec. 7, 6:30 p.m., $20. Also, Cake Decorating, 8 weeks from Sept. 19, 7 p.m., at the Church of the Annunciation, 324 Carpenter Lane, $190 (includes supplies and books).

Penn State Extension, 4601 Market St. 215-471-2215. Free nutrition and cooking classes at Super Cupboard and community sites. Ongoing series. Call for dates and locations.

Private Cooking Lessons. 610-304-5869. Traveling instructor Kristin Albertson teaches basic to advanced cooking.

The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College, 4207 Walnut St. 215-222-4200, ext. 3067. Hands-on classes, 7:15-9:45 p.m.: Fun with Sushi, Sept. 27, $55. Cooking with Beer, Oct. 4, $55. Culinary Arts Workshop, beginner basics, Oct. 22, Nov. 12, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., $135. Intro to Culinary Arts, 6 Tuesdays from Nov. 7, $325. Intermediate Culinary Arts, 6 Tuesdays from Jan. 16, $375. Healthy Cooking, Oct. 12, 19 & 26, $200. Around the World Cuisines, 6 nations, 6 weeks from Nov. 6, $325. Date Night Dinners for Two, Sept. 29 (Asian), Nov. 18 (Hawaiian), $110 a couple.

For catalog, including baking and pastry arts, holiday and spring courses, see www.therestaurant-

ShopRite Culinary Workshop. In-store classes Mondays at Aramingo Avenue and Medford, Tuesdays at Cherry Hill and Wednesdays at Marlton, 7-9 p.m. Registration required. $20. Also details and classes ($35) with guest chef Christina Pirello, click on Culinary Workshop at

Taylor's Wholesome Foods Workshop at the Unitarian Society of Germantown, 6511 Lincoln Dr. 215-247-7874. Eating Right for Your Blood Type, Sept. 23, 10:30 a.m., $50. Cook & Carry, make meals for a week, Oct. 12, 6:30 p.m., $85. Just (Holiday) Desserts, Nov. 13, 6:30 p.m., $50.

Temple University Center City, Institute for Continuing Studies, 1515 Market St.; 215-204-6946. At Foster's Gourmet Kitchen, Reading Terminal Market, 12th & Arch Sts., 5:45 p.m. Great Chefs series: Chocolate Master Class with Robert Bennett, Oct. 16, $95. World Class Fare from the Four Seasons, Martin Hamann, Nov. 15, $65. Hands-on classes, Chris Koch, $65 each: Knife Skills, Sept. 25; Stocks and Sauces, Oct. 23. Pro Baking Techniques, Joy Andress, 3-part series, Oct. 10, Nov. 7 & Dec. 5, $135 ($50 each). Basic Cooking Techniques I, II, & III, Ann Hazan, Sept. 28 & Oct. 5, Oct. 19 & 26, Nov. 9 & 16, $75 each part (series, $199). Brines & Cures, Jim Tarantino, Nov. 1, $55. Holiday Wraps, Irina Smith, Nov. 2, $55. Learn Italian While You Cook, Anna Maria Florio, Nov. 6 & 13, $85.

At Le Champignon, 122 Lombard St. (215-922-2515), Sushi Making with Madame Saito, Levels I-V, Thursdays from Oct. 5, 6:30 p.m., $50 each.

Wellness Community, Suzanne Morgan Center at Ridgeland, Chamounix Drive, West Fairmount Park. 215-879-7733 ( Free for cancer patients and caregivers, Nutrition Matters, Fridays, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.: Tofu, Oct. 13; Winter Squash, Oct. 27.

Whole Foods Markets. Monthly schedule at service desk, online or by mail. At 20th & Callowhill (215-557-0015), Club VEG classes, Mondays, 6:30 p.m., $5: Vietnamese Cuisine, Sept. 25; Apple Harvest, Oct. 23. Raw Food, Indian Style, Oct. 16, 6 p.m., $15; Raw Desserts, Nov. 20, 6 p.m., $15. Half Pints Kids Cooking, Halloween Treats, Oct. 21, noon, $5.

Williams-Sonoma, at The Bellevue, 200 S. Broad St.; 215-545-7392. Tuesday classes, 7:15-9 p.m., $50 each: A Night in India, Sept. 26; One Pan Weeknight Dinners, Oct. 2; Baking 101, Oct. 10; A Night in New Orleans, Oct. 17; World Tapas Tour, Oct. 24; Halloween Harvest Feast, Oct. 31.

Listings for Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties, New Jersey and Delaware are available online.

Wine and More

Below are some of the beverage classes available.


Home Sweet Homebrew, 2008 Sansom St. 215-569-9469. Beer making demos and tastings, Wednesdays, 5-7:30 p.m. Free.

Mount Airy Learning Tree, 6601 Greene St. 215-843-6333 or www.mtairylearning At the Unitarian Society of Germantown, 6511 Lincoln Dr.: South African Wines, Oct. 24, 7-9 p.m., $30. At Tea Country, 6722 Old York Rd.: Introduction to Tea, Oct. 5 or Dec. 7, 6:30-8:30 p.m., $20., Box 1478, Havertown. 610-649-9936 or At the Sofitel Hotel, 17th & Sansom, 9-week WSET Intermediate Certificate course, from Sept. 20 (also Jan. 31), $648. At Temple, Ambler, 580 Meetinghouse Rd.: Introduction to Wine, 3 Thursdays from Sept. 21, 7:30-9:30 p.m., $99. For detail of courses, exams and home study, go online.

Temple University Center City, Institute of Continuing Studies, 1515 Market St. 215-204-6946. Classes 5:45-7:45 p.m.: Introduction to Wine, John McNulty, 3 Fridays from Sept. 29, $95. Taste Wine Like a Pro, Marnie Old, Oct. 27, $45.

University of Pennsylvania College of General Studies, 3440 Market St. 215-898-6479. At London Grill, 2301 Fairmount Ave., Gregory Moore on Wines of the World: Great Wine Varieties, 3 Tuesdays from Oct. 10, 6:30-9 p.m., $225. Wine & Cheese Pairings, Oct. 12, 6-9 p.m., $125.

The Wine Academy of the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College, 4207 Walnut St. 215-222-4200, Ext. 3067. First Growth, 10-week course, begins Monday, $498 ($698 with CSW study guide and certification exam option).

Wine Tastings With Marnie Old, Monthly tastings and art talks at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Museum Restaurant, 6-8 p.m., $49 (includes light food, tax, gratuity and museum admission). Also wine dinners. Dates to be announced. For details, call 215-235-7469.

Wine School of Philadelphia, 2006 Fairmount Ave. 215-965-1514. Tasting classes, 7:30-9:30 p.m., $38: French Regional Wines, Sept. 21; Wine 101: Food & Wine Survival Guide, Sept. 22; Australian Regional Wines, Sept. 28; Wine 101: Wine Buyers Guide, Sept. 29. More at

Bucks County

Bucks County Community College, Continuing Education, 275 Swamp Rd., Newtown. 215-968-8409. VIP Wine Course at Sand Castle Winery, Erwinna, Oct. 14, 1-3 p.m., $25. Wine & Food pairing workshop at Crossing Vineyards & Winery, Washington Crossing, Oct. 23, 6:30 p.m., $50.

Carlow Cookery, 432 N. Main St., Doylestown. 215-489-2677 or Fine Wines of France, Nov. 17, 7 p.m., $70.

Camden County

Beer Club at Elephant and Castle, Clarion Hotel and Conference Center, 1450 Marlton Pike East, Cherry Hill. 856-427-0427. Quarterly beer tastings with brewers, $25 annual membership.

Tri-State Wine College, 100 High St., Milmay. 609-476-2728 or At Tomasello Winery, 225 N. White Horse Pike (Route 30), Hammonton: Wines of the World, 4 weeks from Oct. 4, 7-9 p.m., $329, includes graduation wine dinner.

Chester County

Inn Keeper's Kitchen at Dilworthtown Inn, 1390 Old Wilmington Pike, West Chester. 610-399-1390. Wines of Monterey and the South Central Coast, Oct. 19; Sonoma Valley Wines, Nov. 7. Great Italian Wine Tasting, Nov. 22. Viva la France, classic French wines, Nov. 27. Details and registration at

Delaware County

Haverford Township Adult School, Box 806, Havertown 19083. 610-446-8022 or At Haverford Township Library: Beer Appreciation, 5 Thursdays from Oct. 5, 7-8:30 p.m., $60.

Main Line School Night, 245 Montgomery Ave., Ardmore; 610-687-0460 or www.mainlineschool Open house Saturday, 1-4 p.m., at Creutzburg Center, 260 Gulph Creek Rd, Radnor. At Yangming, Bryn Mawr: Wine & Cheese, Oct. 16, 3-5 p.m., $55. At Beaumont, 601 N. Ithan, Bryn Mawr: West Coast Wines, 3 Wednesdays from Oct. 19, 7:45 p.m., $76. Champagne & Sparkling Wines, Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m., $48.

Montgomery County

Morton's, The Steakhouse, the Pavilion at King of Prussia Mall, 500 Mall Blvd.; 610-491-1900 or Meritage wine blending, Sept. 21, 6-7:30 p.m., $45 (includes hors d'oeuvres and wine kit).

Find more listings of cooking classes in the area and beyond at

comments powered by Disqus