Be Your Own Top Chef
Three North Shore cooking classes instruct on how to prepare gourmet meals at home.
Northshore's outing to Appleton Cooks!
Photo by Joel Laino
One of the most fun and informative ways to celebrate fall’s bounty is to take a cooking class. Under the guidance of a professional chef, you can gather with friends, polish your cooking skills, and discover some impressive new holiday dishes to serve your family. What’s more, at the end of class, you get to savor the luscious results of all your efforts.
So where to sign up? We have three different options, beginning with the restaurant Joseph’s Trattoria Bakery & Café in Haverhill, where on a recent Sunday afternoon 15 folks arrived for the monthly Sunday supper series that chef Robert Ozoonian has offered for the past six years.
“All our classes have an Italian flair, and we usually make five courses,” says Ozoonian. “People are so intrigued with all these reality cooking shows and are eager to work in a professional kitchen using the sort of equipment we use in the restaurant.”
To wit, the group seems all smiles as Ozoonian and his three assistants hand out recipe packets and aprons and then ask each participant to write his or her name on a name tag, along with the spice they feel best represents them.
“It’s an icebreaker that everyone loves,” says Ozoonian, chuckling. After explaining the evening’s recipes, he leads the group into the professional kitchen, where premeasured ingredients for each course sit waiting on gleaming stainless steel counters set with multiple cutting boards and kitchen knives. A mother and daughter, “Cinnamon” and “Chili Powder,” tackle the appetizer of quinoa crab cakes with aioli, while several others beeline to the pasta station to make homemade fettuccini. Two sisters, “Basil” and “Parsley,” and their husbands, “Garlic” and “Hot Pepper,” start making the lemon cream sauce for the pasta, along with the bread and leek stuffing for the surf-and-turf entrée of lobster tails served with mushroom risotto and tenderloin. Another group chops cucumbers, tomatoes, and sweet peppers for the panzanella salad, while a husband and wife team, “Pepper” and “Cinnamon,” stem and slice strawberries for the buttermilk shortcakes with whipped cream. As the participants cook, Ozoonian stops by each group offering cooking tips, shortcuts, and words of encouragement.
And then, in less than two hours, everyone is done. After a quick group picture, which will be posted on Facebook, everyone sits down at a communal table in the dining room, while Ozoonian and his crew plate and garnish each course. First come the golden crab cakes drizzled with aioli, followed by the panzanella salad. After the lemon-cream fettuccini, now dotted with chopped blanched asparagus, plates of tenderloin, stuffed lobster tail, and mushroom risotto make their way to the table, along with the finale of strawberry shortcakes. Red and white wine flows, as does conversation. Most of the participants live nearby and regularly dine at Joseph’s. Several are first-timers who vow to return again. Sated, happy, and brimming with new recipe ideas and kitchen confidence, everyone heads home around 8 p.m.
Joseph’s Trattoria Bakery & Café, 145 Oxford Ave., Haverhill. Cooking with the Chefs, $105 per person, includes class, meal, wine, tax, and gratuity. Visit their website for upcoming class schedule and details. Private classes are also available. josephstrattoria.com
In Beverly, you’ll find a broad range of international cooking classes at Eurostoves, a high-end cookware and home appliance store with an on-premises culinary center.
“We’ve been offering cooking classes for the past 13 years,” says Edward Lisi, director of business development, “driven largely by our group of 20 or so chefs and their knowledge of different cuisines, such as Indian, Thai, and South American.” And whether it’s Bangkok Nights, Mexican Fiesta, or Date Night California Cuisine & Wine Tasting, most classes take place on Friday and Saturday evenings, as well as Sunday afternoons. Guests get to try out some of the high-end cooking equipment and utensils that the store sells and learn various applications and cooking techniques. So, for example, depending upon the season, you might get to grill with the Big Green Egg, learn to use Microplanes, zesters, and peelers with different ingredients, or master the art of the pressure cooker. During most school vacation periods, Eurostoves holds classes for kids and teens (think cupcakes, knife skills, and food truck items).
Kicking off the fall season is a class on “Tapas & Spanish Paellas,” followed by “Flavors of Italy–Rome,” featuring such recipes as Pasta Carbonara, Fried Artichokes, and Porchetta with a Wild Mushroom Sauce. Classes are capped at 15 people, but will run with as few as six, and include an average of 10 recipes—usually a couple of salads, an appetizer, and several entrées, sides, and desserts.
“Guests arrive at the appointed time, are greeted by management, and then head into the kitchen, which has six ranges and all kinds of cooking equipment,” says Lisi. “People choose what they want to make and then take a place at their station, which is set with a cutting board and all the ingredients they’ll need to make their recipe.” After talking about the equipment that will be used, the chef usually gives a little demonstration, whether it’s different ways to use a particular knife or how to operate a pasta machine. While participants cook, they can nibble on a snack, perhaps veggies and a dip or some charcuterie that the school has provided. Then, after all the food is made—usually within two hours—the guests clean the kitchen, set the dinner table, and settle down to enjoy the culinary bounty with some beer, wine, or a mocktail.
Other classes this fall, says Lisi, will focus on Mexico, Greece, and Thailand, along with fresh ingredients and goods from local purveyors, such as the meat, produce, and fowl from Wenham’s Tendercrop Farm, the fruits and vegetables grown at Marini Farm in Ipswich, and the microbrewed beer at Gentile Brewing Company in Beverly.
As with Joseph’s, Eurostoves can arrange private classes, with popular options such as bachelorette parties, corporate team building events, and girls’ night out. Most classes cost $75 per person; wine-pairing dinners cost $85 and up.
Eurostoves, 45 Enon St., Beverly. Visit eurostoves.com for upcoming class schedules and details.
If taking a cooking class on a real working farm sounds appealing, consider heading over to Appleton Farms in Ipswich. It’s the country’s oldest continuously operating farm and grows a wide range of fruits and vegetables, raises livestock for meat, and also has poultry and dairy cows, whose milk the farm turns into cheese. First established and maintained by nine generations of the Appleton family, the farm now belongs to The Trustees of Reservations, one of the largest nonprofit land conservation firms in Massachusetts, celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.
“In 2013 we launched a full year-round cooking program with about three hands-on workshops a month,” says Beth Zschau, who oversees all programming at the farm, including Appleton Cooks! “The focus of each class is getting people to see, meet, and greet the source of their food—the cows, the farmers, the vegetables, and herbs.” And while the farm has several freelance cooking instructors, chef Carolyn Grieco does the majority of the teaching.
“She’s the perfect partner,” says Zschau, “because she really understands how to cook seasonally and she’s a great teacher.” Weekend classes at the farm tend to be taught during the day, while weeknight classes usually take place after work. Participants range from newly engaged couples to the occasional father and daughter or grandmother and granddaughter. And while Appleton Farms would love all participants to belong to The Trustees, you don’t have to be a member to take a class or workshop.
The average cost for a cooking class is $75 for members of The Trustees and $90 for nonmembers. As with Joseph’s and Eurostoves, Appleton Farms offers private workshops, generally for 12 participants or more.
Appleton Cooks! Appleton Farms, 219 Country Road, Ipswich. Visit thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/north-shore/appleton-farms.html for upcoming class schedules and details.
What began as a place to teach kids to bake has turned into a small franchise, with each location offering cooking classes for kids during the day (school vacations and weekends) and adults in the evening. Each facility also hosts culinary events. Every kitchen is completely nut-free, and classes are hands-on, with recipes ranging from sweet to savory. This fall, the North Andover location has adult classes focusing on homemade pasta, tailgating favorites, and tapas. For kids, look for baking classes and the gingerbread houses near the holidays.
Visit tastebudskitchen.com for class schedules and pricing. 14 High St., North Andover