PHOTOGRAPHY BY JULES HOLDSWORTH
It’s back-to-school season, the perfect time to up your culinary game
For some of us, cooking is an intuitive activity that channels seamlessly from our hearts and minds to our hands. For others, not so much. It can be a daily challenge to figure out how to make something edible from start to finish, let alone something that you (and your family) would want to eat again. These days, our country is cooking less and less and eating out more and more. We are strapped for time, and in the age of convenience food, cooking is one activity that often gets skipped for that takeout window. But that’s a pity. Cooking is so fun! And such a great outlet, especially after a stressful day. We are lucky to live in a place abundant with culinary opportunities, offering a wide variety of classes that can help people of any skill level learn a thing or two in the kitchen.
STONE CREEK KITCHEN
This Monterey gem is more than just a place to take a cooking class. It is a gourmet grocery store, a gift shop, a café, a bakery and even a wine store. Inside, you’ll also find a kitchen island area, set apart just enough to offer a separate experience to showcase diverse cooking skills, all taught demonstration style by co-owner Kristina Scrivani. Past classes run the gamut, from vegetarian Jerusalem cuisine to making your own spice blends to Argentine asado. This fall, the focus is on getting ready for the holidays, so for three nights a week through October there will be classes such as Thanksgiving in Paris, Travel to Morocco for the Holidays or Tamales! Tamales! Tamales!. Students get to eat the dishes prepared during class, usually with a glass or two of wine. Scrivani and business partner Linda Hanger are dedicated community members and supporters of local producers.
465 Canyon del Rey Blvd., Monterey • 831.393.1042
SUR LA TABLE
The recent renovation of Carmel Plaza has spruced up the historic shopping center, bringing more folks here to eat, drink and, of course, shop. For the foodie megastore Sur La Table, the renovation created an opportunity to expand its existing space, adding a bright, shiny new venue for cooking classes. Resident chef Bill Poolman, who launched a busy class schedule in June, says, “I’m really happy with all of the classes so far…I haven’t run across a recipe that hasn’t been great. The feedback from our students has been very positive and I’m seeing lots of return students…” Affordable, globally inspired classes take place two or three times a day and are all hands-on, offering everything from Tuscan Harvest Feast to Family Fun, and Desserts on a Stick to Cast Iron Comfort Food. Classes for children and teens are offered during vacation season, and couples Date Night offerings take place several times a week.
Carmel Plaza, Suite 111, Carmel • 831.626.6433
For a restaurant with so much prestige, having recently won the area’s first Michelin star, it’s downright generous of executive chef-director Justin Cogley and executive pastry chef Yulanda Santos to allow the public into their kitchen to take notes. The Aubergine class schedule is thorough, highlighting classical French items, like petit fours, along with more contemporary subject matter, like plant-based, one-pot vegetarian dishes. Classes also offer super helpful instruction right around the time you might need it most, with a Thanksgiving class, dedicated to all the sides, not the turkey. You’ll take away recipes, tips and the food you make in class, and the intimate class size maximum of six participants ensures a focused experience.
Monte Verde Street and 7th Avenue, Carmel • 831.624.8578
HAPPY GIRL KITCHEN
Before Happy Girl Kitchen was actually a physical place in Pacific Grove, it was a small company that made preserves and pickles long ahead of the trendy DIY pickling and jamming curve. Owners Todd and Jordan Champagne (a regular EMB contributor) have been devout preservationists and community gatherers in our area for years. This fall, the Pacific Grove café classroom will be the place to absorb some Autumn Ferment Fever! or learn how to make fruit butters out of apples, pears and quince. In addition, Todd says, “An exciting development is that we are now also teaching at the Cabrillo College extension kitchen in Aptos. I’m teaching pickle making and tomato canning. Jordan is teaching food preservation with summer fruits. This is a good way for people north of Monterey to tap into our seasonal learning opportunities.”
173 Central Ave., Pacific Grove • 831.373.4475
CABRILLO COLLEGE EXTENSION
The Aptos community college has its very own culinary department, complete with an actual restaurant where the students cook and serve as part of their coursework. But the extension is for all of us to partake in, with a huge selection of classes taught by an equally varied roster of instructors. Basic cooking is offered, like knife skills and stocks and sauces, as well as unique explorations like miso making with chickpeas, how to make vegan cheese, and Date Night couples cooking.
6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos • cabrillo.edu/services/extension
Our area is rich with food professionals who like to share their knowledge. In Hollister, Becky Herbert, owner of the multi-farm Eating With The Seasons CSA program, puts on classes in her Farmhouse Café space. This fall she is collaborating with a company called Off the Hook, a women-owned small business that sells locally caught, sustainable fish in addition to a line of essential oil-infused salts. The class will focus on making salt blends and the various ways to use them in cooking. Call Farmhouse Café at 831.265.7247 for more information on how to sign up.
Many local food teachers take advantage of the kitchen classroom at New Leaf Community Market on the Westside of Santa Cruz. So check its website or EMB’s free weekly enewsletter for listings. Andrea Nguyen, the affable author of a variety of Vietnamese cookbooks, occasionally teaches classes in the New Leaf space. Nguyen admits, “This is ridiculous to say but all three of my fall classes have sold out. It happened in less than 48 hours. I’m going to open another class for December, but that will go fast, too.” Sign up for her mailing list for a better chance to enroll in her unique classes, like how to make dim sum from scratch, DIY tofu, Asian dumpling boot camp and Viet street food. “It’s a fun culinary workout, so to speak,” she says.
Down the street from New Leaf is Companion Bakeshop, another venue for very popular workshops. Its fall lineup includes Sourdough Basics, Brunch Pastries and Holiday PIE LAB, all taught on weekends capping at 12 students for an immersive hands-on baking session in the back of the bakery.
In Scotts Valley at the monumental 1440 Multiversity, the programming is vast and deep, covering personal growth and health and wellness topics that bring highly acclaimed leaders to our redwoods for experiential sessions. But for us locals who might not enroll in an entire retreat or for someone who just wants to check out its amazing open classroom kitchen facility, we can participate in the occasional event taught by chef Kenny Woods, for example, the upcoming Teaching Kitchen Weekends this fall. 1440 offers a foodie-based, hands-on experiential package that includes overnight accommodation, reception and dessert tasting, juice making, baking and nutrition cooking classes, wine tasting with a local winemaker and a family-style dinner.
In Ben Lomond, Mountain Feed & Farm, known far and wide as a go-to for any garden or kitchen need, has been a long-time source for educational workshops. Often led by the woman-of-many-talents (and EMB contributor) Jessica Tunis, classes range from making applesauce to fermented winter squash chutney. These two DIY workshops in partnership with Santa Cruz Community Farmers’ Markets will happen this fall at the Felton market.
Amber Turpin is a food writer and baker who homesteads in Ben Lomond.