More and more restaurants are offering one-of-a-kind experiences where diners walk away knowing how to make hand-crafted artisanal pasta or a beloved dish off an eatery’s signature menu. Restaurant cooking classes give food lovers a behind-the-scenes look at their favorite places and an up-close account of what it means to be a chef. Here’s where to taste the trend first hand.
At Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Abacus in Dallas, chef Kent Rathbun offers a daylong experience dubbed The Dirty Dozen cooking class. One Sunday per month, 12 lucky aspiring chefs join Rathbun and his chef de cuisine (Christopher Patrick), sous chef (Tim Sablick) and pastry chef (Chris McCord) in the kitchen.
Upon arrival, the Dirty Dozen inductees are instructed to put on their monogramed chef’s coat. From there, the group is broken up into four teams, each led by one of the four toques. With the restaurant closed, you’ll learn many of the techniques necessary to make upscale cuisine. Each class focuses on a different culinary theme such as modern American fare, the spring bounty or Latin America.
After you’ve rolled up your sleeves in the kitchen, you’ll sit down to an intimate dinner with wine pairings. Dirty Dozen students are each allowed to invite one guest to join them at the meal.
Flour + Water, San Francisco
Pasta lovers will jump at the chance to join Flour + Water’s chefs in San Francisco. Once a month, usually on a weeknight, the restaurant hosts a pasta master class in which guests mix dough by hand, explore different pasta-making techniques, and learn the proper methods for shaping and filling stuffed pasta. The class is held above the restaurant in executive chef Thomas McNaughton’s intimate test kitchen, where his personal cookbook collection lines the walls.
Lovers of Italian cuisine will sip on prosecco and nibble on house made charcuterie while learning how to operate an old-school hand crank pasta roller. An April class focused on Northern Italian noodles, ravioli, hand-rolled semolina and gnocchi. At the end of the session, you sat down to a three-course, wine-paired dinner prepared by Flour + Water. After the meal, you left with the fresh pasta that you made in class and one of the restaurant’s cookbooks.
Restaurant Guy Savoy, Las Vegas
In Las Vegas’s Caesars Palace, at Five-Star Restaurant Guy Savoy, groups of six can call in advance to schedule a personal cooking class with chef Julien Asseo. At the tasty lesson, fans of Savoy’s cuisine will step into his kitchen and learn to make one of his signature appetizers and entrees, like his artichoke and black truffle soup with toasted mushroom brioche and black truffle butter or his American prime beef tenderloin with baby heirloom carrot. Of course, after slaving away over the stove, you’ll head out to the restaurant and enjoy the fruit’s of your labor.
If you’re thirsty and interested in learning how to make farm-to-table cocktails, head to Napa Valley’s Four-Star The Carneros Inn for a bit of schooling. During the warmer months, the resort’s restaurant, Farm, offers a program called Gather and Garnish. As the name hints, you are allowed to forage from the quarter-acre farm and fruit trees that dot the landscape for ingredients. Once your basket is filled with herbs, Meyer lemons and lavender, you and other beverage enthusiasts meet up with a head bartender who will help you craft an original cocktail recipe using the items found on property.
The Painted Lady Restaurant, Portland, Oregon
In Portland, Oregon, at Four-Star The Painted Lady Restaurant, you are presented the rare chance of participating in an hour-long personal cooking class with chef Allen Routt. Each outing is custom designed to meet the diner’s cooking level and interests, but expect all sessions to be flavored with Pacific Northwest sensibilities. Classes can be done individually or accommodate up to eight people. After the intimate demonstration, you and the other students will enjoy a three-course meal that highlights some of the techniques taught during the class.
Aubergine, the Restaurant at L’Auberge Carmel, Carmel-by-the-Sea
At Four-Star L’Auberge Carmel, buzzed about chef Justin Cogley teaches gastro junkies how to work in the Five-Star Aubergine, the Restaurant at L’Auberge Carmel kitchen. Classes begin with a glass of champagne and are held on weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The cool thing about Cogley’s sessions is that kids 12 and up can participate with an adult chaperone. Cogely teaches professional techniques that can be adapted by the home cook. Upcoming subjects include a spring vegetable class (April 20) where students learn to maximize the flavor of produce and one where all things seafood are celebrated (May 18).
The International School of Pizza, San Francisco
Pizza lovers will jump at the chance to learn how to make classic Italian pies from chef Tony Gemignani, the owner of three pizza restaurants in San Francisco. The International School of Pizza takes place at his namesake eatery, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, where professionals take an intensive five-day pizza-making course and home chefs learn some of the same craft secrets. Students get a better understanding of what it takes to become a true pizzaioli by mastering the wood-burning oven and becoming familiar with the many styles of pizza dough.
Ngam, New York City
In New York City, Thai food fans can take a cooking class at Ngam with chef Hong Thaimee. Classes are held on Saturday mornings and last approximately two hours. The 15-person lesson includes a special apron, complimentary Thai beer and a lunch you helped prepare. The most popular class is True Thai Cooking at Home. A great course for all skill levels and ages, the culinary conference lets students learn to make green papaya salad, traditional pad Thai and green curry.