Sunday, January 30, 2011

Classes for the Masses

Ever wish you could wield a chef's knife like a pro? Or make sushi at home that's as good as the expensive stuff in Japanese restaurants? How about breaking down whole animals into their component parts?

Two Portland chefs, both instructors at local culinary schools, have started up a cooking school for the rest of us called Portland's Culinary Workshop. Its mission is to teach us to have more confidence in the kitchen, not only in using tools but by getting hands-on experience in braising, preparing smashing meals with raw foods and making salads and burgers sing with vinaigrettes and aioli mayonnaise (just a few of the plethora of offerings).

The difference between these classes and others in the city is the cost, most under $65, and that they all contain a big fun factor, like a class called "Mind Your Meat Mistress" that teaches about different cuts of meat, how to cook them to make the most of their flavors and then how to cut up a whole chicken. Chef Melinda Casady (left in top photo), one of the two owners, teaches this class and is known across the city for her butchering skills, as well as her ability to debone a chicken with lightning speed while blindfolded. (Whether she'll be wearing leather and carrying a whip remains to be determined.)

Susana Holloway (right in top photo), the other half of the pair and, in the interests of full disclosure, a good friend and neighbor of mine, will be bringing her mastery of technique along with a knowledge of international cuisines gleaned from her upbringing in Brazil and other countries. An incredible gardener, she's also going to be offering a class called "Plot to Plate" about making meals from food you grow yourself or, as the class description says, you'll "find out what grows together and goes together."

Another unique feature are lectures with an emphasis not just on cooking but on understanding the dynamics of our food system and how to make choices that promote our own health and that of the environment. With titles like "Feed Your Body: Nutrition 101," "Science Geeks in the Kitchen," "Exploring Genetically Modified Foods" and "The Shopping Dilemma, the Ethics of What We Buy," these promise to be loaded with useful info for making responsible decisions.

The two also plan to teach folks to make their own baby food, cook for special diets, and have continuing education classes for culinary professionals as well as team-building classes for companies that want to boost morale and encourage teamwork. Plus they've committed to displaying two blackboards that are dedicated to their current passions like must-have kitchen tools, favorite restaurants, food movies and produce. Can you imagine anything more fun?

Details: Portland's Culinary Workshop, 807 N Russell St. 503-512-0447.


Anonymous said...

It sounds so cool, I wish I lived closer.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Not be overly booster-ish, but they do have Sunday classes if you should come down to the Hillsdale market again!