Food

17 Places to Put On Your Chef Hat

17 Places to Put On Your Chef Hat


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From the East Coast to the West, and everywhere in between, the country’s collective bounty of fresher-than-fresh produce and regional delicacies adds up to an indisputably world-class culinary landscape. And it’s not just Michelin-starred restaurants, either—odds are, there’s a gastronomy-centric destination to tuck into for a weekend (many have entire programs devoted to everything from Ayurveda to seafood), or at least a stellar cooking school to hone your skills, within striking distance of where you live. Here, a shortlist of spots to get you in the kitchen.

Hang for the Day

  • Joseph Phelps Vineyards
<br><em> St. Helena, California</em>

    Joseph Phelps Vineyards

    St. Helena, California

    Family owned, and run day-to-day by the Phelps family for the last forty-five years, this Napa wine hero boasts over 130 acres of rolling vineyards alongside olive groves, fruit orchards, and beehives. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more picturesque setting for an afternoon of tastings. Start with Phelps’ Insignia Blending Seminar (Insignia is not only the vineyard’s signature wine but is California’s first proprietary red Bordeaux-style blend). This is a hands-on, highly refined way to learn about terroir and varietal selections as you smell, taste, and experiment with blending the six Insignia components for a perfect glass. The Playful Plates program allows guests to continue the tasting experience (led by a seasoned wine educator) and simultaneously weave in seasonal small plates to complement the wine.

  • Sur La Table <br><em> Nationwide </em>

    Sur La Table
    Nationwide

    Reliably good and an American classic, Sur La Table regularly hosts excellent cooking classes in hundreds of their stores throughout the country (glimpse the full list of national classes here). Expect totally practical, but still aspirational, themed culinary evenings that make for the perfect date (friendship or romantic) irrespective of whether you’re a complete novice or experienced cook. Classes happen weekly and range from the helpful Cooking Under Pressure and Knife Skills 101 to Winter in Paris, Taste of Tuscany or the absolutely necessary Fried Chicken Night.

  • The Civic Kitchen <br><em> San Francisco, California </em>

    The Civic Kitchen
    San Francisco, California

    The Civic Kitchen is an entirely purpose-built (meaning every amenity is built to spec) cookery school in San Francisco’s Mission district. More than just a kitchen, this space is a fully immersive culinary experience with floor-to-ceiling shelves packed with cookbooks for inspiration, a large communal table for meal sharing, and the class space itself, which feels like a cozy, well-designed friend’s kitchen. The classes are practicality-focused, themed around building meals and menus rather than zoning in on individual, complicated dishes. Learn how to pull together a full Sunday brunch, and how to cook a chicken and assorted grains ahead of time for easier meal-planning during the week, or if the mood strikes, how to pull together a complete celebratory Chinese New Year dinner (dumplings, noodles, steamed fish–the works!). The school has over a dozen chefs on staff, each with their own area of expertise, and classes never go above fourteen students.

  • Hipcooks<br><em> Los Angeles, California</em>

    Hipcooks
    Los Angeles, California

    Monika Reti, owner and founder of Hipcooks, has a gift for bringing people together. Her classes—some taught by her, others by her brilliant culinary staff—are equal parts art lesson, community gathering, and culinary experience (one goop staffer describes it as the best dinner party–only better). At every session, guests take part in the entire process of the meal, from the prep, to the cooking, to the gathering at the table to dine (with wine, of course). The all-inclusive experience was Reit’s vision when she founded Hipcooks back in 2004 after leaving her job as an economist. Fast forward more than a decade, and there are seven Hipcooks outposts, including three in the LA area (the DTLA spot is the original location), all of which offer a range of globally inspired cooking lessons, from Thai, to Argentinian, to Persian, that ultimately support the idea that there’s an inner chef in all of us.

  • The Gourmandise School <br><em> Los Angeles, California </em>

    The Gourmandise School
    Los Angeles, California

    Founder Clémence Gossett started making sweet treats for her colleagues at 20th Century Fox—where she was working as an assistant at the time—and decided to turn what was a hobby into a full-time hustle. Located in Santa Monica, The Gourmandise School focuses on teaching classic technique to both beginners and experienced cooks with options ranging from three-hour themed classes to several week-long courses. Each module is taught by an industry professional and truly, there is something for everyone—from decorating a birthday cake and cooking chicken everything, to butchery and preserving workshops (jams, pickles, kraut, and so on). Specialty cuisine options could be as diverse as Thai street food and Argentinian steakhouse, or for the more technical cook seeking new innovations, mastering the sous vide. The kitchen is housed in an industrial space that feels like a full-fledged commercial kitchen with roomy communal working spaces and stainless-steel appliances.

  • Food Lab Boulder <br><em> Boulder, Colorado </em>

    Food Lab Boulder
    Boulder, Colorado

    Boulder has evolved to become a culinary destination, in part because of its long history of serving farm-to-table fare, but also due to its high concentration of talented chefs. A newer addition to the city, Food Lab makes itself right at home as a community-driven cooking school. Founder and owner Casey Easton describes the space as “inviting and not-intimidating,” that offers a place for couples, friends, families, and companies to bond over the communal act of cooking. The three-hour-long classes are totally hands-on, and range from pasta-making to paella with the last thirty minutes or so reserved for dining together. Easton’s taste for interior design is evident in the bright industrial space, which makes coming here for a lesson even more fun.

  • Central Market <br><em> Locations across Texas </em>

    Central Market
    Locations across Texas

    With seven locations in Texas (including Houston, San Antonio, Fort Worth, and Dallas), The Central Market Cooking School focuses on building up the essential techniques that are the foundation of every good cook. Professionals teach first-time cooks the essentials, like crucial knife skills, that save so much time in the kitchen. There are also lessons on how to build a menu of complementary dishes, and specialized classes for the more confident cook like pasta making (from scratch), inventive ideas for meatless meals, or for fish lovers—Hawaiian seafood (learn how to select, fillet, and cook the perfect piece of fresh fish). Central Market can accommodate groups big and small and also offers parent-and-child classes.

  • The Chopping Block <br><em> Chicago, Illinois </em>

    The Chopping Block
    Chicago, Illinois

    Owner Shelley Young opened the Chopping Block in a small cottage in Lincoln Park back in 1997 with the goal of sharing her love of preparing a home-cooked meal with others. Since then, the flagship has relocated to a sprawling 8,000-square-foot space in the Merchandise Mart. Here, classes cover everything from knife skills to sushi and pasta workshops (we’re fans of the Know Your Gnocchi class), plus a course devoted entirely to deep-dish pizza (this is Chicago, after all). Classes range from two to three hours in length, and there’s a fully packed weekend schedule if you can’t make it during the week. For anyone looking to take their kitchen skills to the next level, the Culinary Bootcamp teaches professional techniques to home cooks in just five sessions. There’s a second location in Lincoln Square.

  • Cook <br><em> Rittenhouse, Philadelphia </em>

    Cook
    Rittenhouse, Philadelphia

    In an intimate, sixteen-seat exhibition space, local chefs like Malik Ali of the Dutch, Matt Kemp of Shoon Sushi, and Peter Scarola of R2L, put their cooking skills to work on a monthly basis. (See the full list of classes here). For the home cook who aspires to be a little more adventurous in the kitchen, upcoming modules include The Palestinian Table, Empanada Making, and Anglo-Indian Cuisine. The retail arm stocks an exhaustive assortment of cookbooks, kitchen gadgetry for every skill level, plus produce from Fishtown-based Green Aisle Grocery.

  • Cook Space <br><em> Prospect Heights, New York </em>

    Cook Space
    Prospect Heights, New York

    New York City—a metropolis obsessed with eating—isn’t short on restaurants, but, Cook Space offers a totally novel, modern alternative to the classic dinner out. This multi-functional space in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights hosts cooking classes, catering opportunities, workshops, and even classes for kiddos. Whether you’re an accomplished home cook or a newbie in the kitchen, the roster has a little bit of something for everyone: Paleo, Ayurvedic, and Whole 30 classes, alongside New Orleans cuisine, classic Thai, or even Vegan for Carnivores, the list goes on. The best part? All lessons end with guests enjoying the fruits of their labor in the loft-like, very Brooklyn dining room.

  • Haven's Kitchen <br><em> Chelsea, New York </em>

    Haven's Kitchen
    Chelsea, New York

    We’re pretty smitten with the concept here: Founder Alison Cayne transformed a carriage house into a cooking school/supper club/catering company where area chefs lead classes on everything from cooking Vietnamese food with fresh herbs to gluten- and allergen-free baking. Once the meal is made, participants grab chairs and eat together. Best yet, there’s a boutique in the gorgeously appointed space, offering some of the kitchen’s homemade goods, like granola, as well as other artisanal pantry items. The upstairs–replete with a bar and dining room–is available for rent to host private events.

  • The Brooklyn Kitchen <br><em>Williamsburg, Brooklyn </em>

    The Brooklyn Kitchen
    Williamsburg, Brooklyn

    Cooking nightly dinner at home is a fairly radical concept to many New Yorkers, but blessedly the Brooklyn Kitchen (with two locations, Williamsburg and Sunset Park) has made realistic home cooking its mission. The Williamsburg property is a renovated warehouse with a stunning loft kitchen and ample space for ambitious gourmands to command their own stations. Classes are themed and–truly–there’s something to meet everyone’s needs, whether it’s mastering the art of French cooking (pick the Julia Child class), acquiring the basics in knife skills, learning to butcher your own meat, or just rustling up some quick pickles to perk up work lunches al desko. Aside from being seriously practical, cooking classes are a fun change-up from the normal restaurant-dinner-and-a-drink date or post-work routine.

Stay for the Weekend

  • Thacher House<br><em>Ojai, California</em>

    Thacher House
    Ojai, California

    Hovering somewhere between a bed-and-breakfast and organic co-op farm, LA-transplant Calvin Zara’s refurbished 1898 four-bedroom Thacher House and its three accompanying private cabins is where you want to be for a fully-immersive, get-away-from-it-all experience (it accommodates no more than twenty guests at a time). If you stay here, be prepared to share the lush grounds with chickens and a family of goats, in addition to the vibrant citrus and pomegranate trees in the garden. Needless to say, all the food served at the beautifully appointed dining room is sourced locally or from the Thacher House working farm itself (alternatively, make it yourself with goat milking, cheese and yogurt making, or get-your-hands-dirty gardening). Also on offer: classes in cooking, baking, olive-oil pressing, and so much more.

  • Blackberry Farm <br><em>Walland, Tennessee</em>

    Blackberry Farm
    Walland, Tennessee

    Buttermilk biscuits with a view. Equal parts luxury hotel, world-class kitchen, and working farm, this 4,200 acre resort in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains is a slice of heaven for those hungry for rest, relaxation, good music, and, of course, incredible Southern cooking. Check their calendar before booking for events that may be of interest like truffle hunts, photography workshops, wellness weekends, and featured celeb chefs like Joanne Weir and Daniel Boulud. Enthusiastic home-cooks should note the upcoming French Culinary Class with The Cooks Atelier, and an evening with James Beard Award winner Steven Satterfield.

  • Salt Water Farm<br><em>Lincolnville, Maine </em>

    Salt Water Farm
    Lincolnville, Maine

    After working in some of the world’s most popular restaurants and assisting a famed NYC chef, Annemarie Ahearn decided to pack-up, move to the New England countryside, and lend her skills as a culinary teacher. What she ended up creating is a cooking empire of sorts, with a school, café, and a new cookbook, Full Moon Suppers at Salt Water Farm: Recipes from Land and Sea. At her farm on the Maine coast, she takes a hands-on approach to instill resourcefulness in the kitchen, teaching techniques to cook instinctually with what’s seasonally available. From pasta-making to pickling to bread-baking, she teaches one-off courses or week-long workshops, all of which take place in an idyllic barn. A note: While there are no on-site accommodations, the surrounding towns offer an ample selection of B&Bs and hotels.

  • Los Poblanos <br><em>Albuquerque, New Mexico </em>

    Los Poblanos
    Albuquerque, New Mexico

    Los Poblanos offers unfussy elegance among kitchen gardens and dreamy lavender fields (which supply their in-house line of bath and beauty products). Their homey Rio Grande Valley cuisine is inspired seasonally and sourced locally—so much so that they call their menu field-to-fork. The on-site industrial kitchen plays host to an ever-changing roster of cooking classes, which you can tack onto your stay. Clean, classic, and comfy rooms make it hard to get out of bed, but one big plate of carnitas with fresh tortillas may be all the motivation you need.

  • Tutka Bay Lodge <br><em> Kachemak Bay, Alaska</em>

    Tutka Bay Lodge
    Kachemak Bay, Alaska

    The mountains here are jaggedly rugged, the fjords are practically clear, the forests stretch for miles, and the beaches are basically untouched, but, nature aside, you’re here for the food. The various buildings at this waters-edge retreat are all linked by a boardwalk, and it’s along this that you stroll to reach the cookery school—housed (aptly) in a repurposed crabbing boat which in its previous life carried troops during World War Two. Chef Kristen Dixon—an esteemed Cordon Bleu grad and cookbook author—celebrates the best of Alaskan produce with seafood justifiably taking center-stage. Tutka Bay’s in-house chefs, alongside Dixon, instruct students on the most mouthwatering preparations for the freshest halibut, salmon, crab, and Kachemak Bay oysters you’re likely to taste, ever.

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