7 Ways to Survive and Thrive in Cooking School

By , SparkPeople Blogger

When faced with another Sunday and another week’s worth of meal possibilities, do you envision earmarked cookbooks, julienned veggies, perfectly grilled meat and the smiling faces and full bellies of loved ones around the dinner table? Or, does your vision more closely resemble a photo of the Mojave Desert—a barren and idealess wasteland with unhappy, hangry kids making an occasional, tumbleweed-like appearance?
If it’s the latter, instead of routinely picking your way through the the same old, last-minute, tried-and-true dinner staples or occasional drive-thru dinners week after week, consider going back to school—cooking school. From learning a new technique or two to discovering your next favorite dish, cooking classes can take the stress out of meal mania. Plus, no dirty dishes.

1. Learn to cook something new. This one is obvious, but chances are, you didn’t sign up to learn how to microwave chicken nuggets. Often, the classes showcase an ethnic dish (like French pastries) or seasonal foods (such as Thanksgiving recipes). Even if you don’t get it right in the class, going through the steps and seeing the final outcome might just be the impetus you need to try the dish—or something similar—again at home.

2. Try new foods. You know for a fact you don’t like Brussels sprouts. Then, you thinly sliced them and sauteed them in butter, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper and crumbled some bacon on top. Now? You are the tiny cabbage’s number-one fan.
3. Make a date of it. You don’t have to bring your significant other along to class with you—although that’s fun, too. Many cooking schools like Sur la Table offer girls’ nights and family nights. Make a date with your book club or schedule some rare one-on-one time with your teenager and bond over beef wellington.
4. Turn up your technique. Even if you aren’t a cooking novice, you can always learn or perfect a new technique. Sheath your santoku and head to knife class at kitchen stores like Williams-Sonoma, where you’ll not only learn to hold your knife properly, but also the difference between slicing, dicing and chopping.
5. Perfect your palate. Because you’ll be sampling the dishes you create, you’ll be trying foods you may never have thought to taste before--the way they should be tasted. If you’re lucky enough to have a class where wine is paired with your dishes, you’ll get a double dose of palate-pleasing tastes. You might go in a rotisserie chicken connoisseur and leave an eggplant parmesan expert.
6. Gain a “signature dish.” When called upon to bring food to a potluck dinner or holiday get-together, do you resort to store-bought chips and dip while everyone else is asked to bring his or her own specialty? Now’s your time to find a dish you enjoy making—and eating--and will want to share again and again.
7. Have fun. Unless you take a private lesson, most hands-on classes should have no more than 12 to 14 students per class, with two to four sharing a workspace. There’s a good chance the other students are also just as new to cooking as you are, so try to make the best of the situation. Don’t cry over spilled milk or dropped eggs. Instead, share a laugh over lumpy dough or runny rouxs. Even if your meal doesn’t turn out perfectly, your experience will definitely be something to remember.
Questions to Ask to Find the Right Class

1. Is the class hands-on or demonstration? In a hands-on class, you’ll do all the prep work and cooking yourself. In a demonstration class, you’ll watch as the instructor shows you how to assemble the meal in front of you.

2. Are they cooking something you are interested in eating? Don’t sign up for a class on Memphis barbecue if you are a vegetarian.

3. How big is the class? In a hands-on class, you won’t want to share a workspace with more than four people. Make sure you feel comfortable with the class size so you can get the most out of your lesson.

4. How much will you get to taste? Did you go for a bite or the whole bowl? You decide.

5. What is their cancellation policy? If you change your mind or something unforeseen comes up and you can’t get to class, make sure you know the repercussions.

What experiences have you had with cooking classes? Share them in the comments!