Most of the foodies I know are as passionate about eating great meals out as they are creating fantastic meals at home.
Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to have attended parties at friends houses featuring local chefs cooking everything from gourmet popcorn to spicy Indian curries, but the days of having a cooking demo at home as one of the only options are long gone.
Cooking schools and restaurants have increasingly found ways to introduce or expand classes that helps sharpen cooking skills, food knowledge and gain confidence in the kitchen. Here are a few that I have tried out and walked away from with new techniques and knowledge.
The Culinary Center at Dorothy Lane Market
6161 Far Hills Ave., Dayton
(937) 535-5696 | dorothylane.com
Located next door to DLM’s Washington Square store, the Culinary Center features a state-of-the art kitchen set up for anything from 15 people to 60. It feels like you're in the audience of a high-end cooking show, and the quality of the food being made and served, knowledge and skills of the instructors, and variety of classes are truly impressive. Classes feature a variety of local and national chefs.
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Led by corporate chef and culinary director for Dorothy Lane Market Chef Carrie Walters, the classes are thoughtful, smart, timely and entertaining. Getting a chance to see Chef Carrie in action (one of the great minds responsible for recipe development of the food that DLM serves up) is a treat.
Why go? Really great food for one — you will eat very well. Also, the opportunity to meet other like-minded foodies and make new friends. Then there’s the slick setting and the wide variety and frequency of classes. Although the class sizes tend to be larger, it’s exciting to see different chefs in their element passionately talking about the dishes and ingredients they most love. It’s definitely a more exciting, educational way to dine. I simply can’t say enough good things about this place!
Cost: Varies, but many times it’s in the $75 range. Can be less depending on the class — the Italian-American Family Night on Aug. 14 for example is $75 for two people. With approximately 150 classes put on each year, there are plenty of options to choose from. The fall term runs late September through December; winter-spring term runs January through May, and summer term begins in June and runs through August.
Upcoming classes: Couples Class: Summer Surf & Turf, Aug. 7. Italian-American Family Night, Aug. 14. Never Too Many Tomatoes!, Aug. 17. Sausage & Suds, Oct. 21.
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This business operates out of the basement of Chef Jo Dyck’s 1926 home in Oakwood. Purchase tickets individually on her website or organize a group of six to eight friends to have a private party. Each person will have their own station complete with cooktop, cutting board, apron and all the tools you necessary to create a single serving sized three or four course meal. During the class I attended we made risotto and crepes and really learned a lot of tips on technique. If you organize a private event Chef Jo will work with you to create the menu you want. The class is informative with step by step instructions — you eat what you cook, so pay attention!
Why go? The small class size ensures one-on-one interaction and the ability to ask lots of questions. You can bring your own bottle of wine and if you get friends on board to fill up the class it’s like your own private Food Network-esque party. The fact that each individual gets to eat what they cook is rewarding and the set-up, although a little tight downstairs, is welcoming and well thought out. Chef Jo couldn’t be any nicer and the fact that everything is pre-measured and ready to go ensures you won’t have to wait long to start eating the appetizer you just cooked up.
Cost: Can vary, but usually it’s around $70 per person.
Upcoming classes: Ina Garten Rustic Italian dinner, Aug. 19. Amalfi Coast dinner, Aug. 20. Filet Mignon dinner, Aug. 26.
Cooking Classes at The Old Arcana
109 W. George St., Arcanum
(937) 692-0068 | oldarcana.com
There are several area restaurants that occasionally offer cooking classes, but The Old Arcana in Darke County offers them consistently and has since opening its doors more than two years ago. The classes, led by chef and owner Jeff Besecker, are mostly small groups with stools for attendees to sit on in the kitchen to observe what’s being done. It’s the opportunity to watch a chef at work in his environment. That said, it’s a working kitchen that is hot in the summer, so if you want to avoid the heat you might want to wait until fall to try this one out.
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Why go? These classes are for the home cook who is looking to tips and tricks to speed up prep and get ideas on how to save on time — I never would have thought to use a rice cooker to make paella, for example. Students get to sample each course that’s made. It’s not a filling meal, but it’s enough to give you a sense of how the dish will turn out at home if you decide to make it. It’s a drive, so getting out there by 6 p.m. may be a challenge for some. In that case, plan a Saturday (9 a.m.-3 p.m.) or Sunday (10 a.m.-3 p.m.) to visit this cozy, charming restaurant with a menu that will leave your mouth watering. Call ahead for reservations, as the 38 seats fill up fast. Besecker and his team recently launched a Saturday Supper Club, which sounds intriguing. One Saturday evening a month they host a special dinner party that are “multi-course, chef-driven dishes with a seasonal or regional theme.” At the end of the evening you meet the chef(s) and the and get to hear the story behind the dish.
Cost: $45 per person for the cooking classes
Upcoming classes: Tuscan Flavors, Aug. 9. Garden to Table, Aug. 17. Get Kitchen Confidence: A 3-part series of cooking basics happening Aug. 23, Sept. 13 and Oct. 4. Asian Flavors, Sept. 6. Go Greek!, Sept. 27. Sushi! Learn to make your own hand rolls!, Oct. 18. French Bistro Favorites, Nov. 1. The Perfect Roast Chicken, Nov. 15.
Mark your calendar: On Aug. 13 Besecker will host Chef Alan Sternberg, 2016 James Beard Award “Rising Star Chef” Semifinalist and Executive Chef at Cerulean restaurant Indianapolis and guest Chef Aimee Saling from Four Points by Sheraton Cincinnati North for a 10-course dinner utilizing fresh produce and meats of the season from local Miami Valley farms and purveyors. To purchase tickets visit https://sternbergarcana.eventbrite.com.
Dayton Eats looks at the regional food stories and restaurant news that make mouths water. Do you know of any restaurant updates or tasty news you think is worth a closer look? Email Alexis Larsen at email@example.com with information and we'll work to include it in future coverage.