From two-hour sessions to a four-week immersion, here are the best cooking classes around the world.
Food & Wine
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The Pantry, U.S.
This Seattle school was created for home cooks who aspire to be David Chang, not Julia Child. Says 36-year-old founder Brandi Henderson, "My generation is more interested in pork buns than beef bourguignon." Henderson, an architect turned pastry chef, opened The Pantry with ambitious students in mind; classes are wildly eclectic and go deep. "We don't dumb things down," she says. "If making pork stock for ramen takes four days, we say take four days."
Taking a hands-on class at superstar Seattle chef Tom Douglas’s cooking school in the Hotel Ändra might be as close as you can get to staging in one of his kitchens without quitting your day job. As well as learning how to make his signature recipes, like coconut cream pie and Aleppo-pepper-cured salmon, restaurant nerds take classes with guest chefs like Marcus Samuelsson.
Frustrated that their small New Jersey town had nowhere to shop for great-looking housewares or to learn about healthy recipes, Neilly Robinson and her mother, Judy Rosenblum, opened their store and school. In a kitchen designed by luxe cabinetmaker Arclinea, New York-based chefs like Rachel Nichols from The Smile and vegan expert Alexa Weitzman teach students to make "clean" recipes such as tempeh empanadas.
Located in a 250-year-old stone building on a working farm, this New Jersey school reflects a range of modern culinary obsessions: Students can learn cheesemaking or take a class that combines healthy cooking and yoga instruction. Run by two former Gourmet magazine editors, Ian Knauer and Shelley Wiseman, the school offers advanced lessons (DIY butchery using cattle raised on the farm, Mexican classics), as well as basics like knife skills.
Sandy D'Amato ran his acclaimed Milwaukee restaurant Sanford for 23 years, cooking on the line every night. When he and his wife realized they'd had enough of the grind, they sold the restaurant and their apartment upstairs and bought a 1900s farmhouse on a riverbank in rural Massachusetts. D'Amato added a large and sunny teaching kitchen and began giving classes on refined Mediterranean-American food, including smart reinventions of the Sicilian dishes he ate growing up.
In many ways, Courtney Contos is a big-city chef (she worked at Charlie Trotter's in Chicago), yet her tiny Vermont cooking school has a very personal vibe; every March she features recipes inspired by her Irish heritage. Students sit around a large butcher-block table, which creates a communal feeling, especially during the popular women-only classes. Befitting the school's friendly approach, Contos hands out her cell phone number for students to call during kitchen emergencies.
Though beginners are welcome at legendary chef Alain Ducasse's Paris school, teachers focus on ambitious dishes like lobster court bouillon taken from Ducasse's cookbooks.
Popular Classes in English: Bistro Cuisine; Macarons Madness.
Workload: "When we started, we would teach eight recipes per class," says executive chef Pierre Morat. "Now we teach only two during a half-day class, so we know students will be able to re-create them at home."