Back to school: Patricia Poritzky at Let’s Cook Santa Cruz.
Photo by Keana Parker.
Patricia Poritzky is sitting by the curb in her hybrid, planning tonight’s menu and waiting to pick up the kids in her carpool, one of the many ways she shares and conserves resources throughout her day. Another is the 2,000-square-foot professional kitchen she timeshares. By day, another business cooks there; at night, Poritzky transforms it into a cooking school.
“Let’s Cook Santa Cruz,” which opened with sold-out classes in January, is where she and guest chefs teach the community how to cook SOLE food—sustainable, organic, local and ethical grub. “SOLE food is part of a movement to help change the way people eat and access their food,” Poritzsky says, adding that if her students “learn one thing about being more environmentally friendly and buy one thing that wasn’t trucked across the States, I’m grateful.” Poritzky is just one of a number of area cooks and chefs who have begun to offer their expertise to local residents who are increasingly eager to hone their chops for cooking our region’s fresh, healthy local food—be it from their delivery of fresh fish from Local Catch Monterey Bay, their CSA box or finds from their neighborhood market.
Some of the very newest of these classes will come from Dory Ford’s Point Pinos Grill in Pacific Grove, which will soon offer cooking classes for kids; Santa Cruz’s Front Street Kitchen, a community commercial kitchen that will run a variety of culinary classes; and Hollister’s Pasture Chick Ranch, which will teach cheesemaking. At the Hyatt Carmel Highlands’ Pacific’s Edge restaurant, Executive Chef Matt Bolton is launching in March a “Meet the Farmer” lunch series to offer expertise in sourcing local ingredients and preparing them at home.
“More and more,” says Bolton, “people want to know where their food is coming from, whether it’s organic, heirloom or foraged; how green it is; and what kind of footprint they’re leaving on the earth. I find this a really good way to bring people closer to local food sources, the same fresh products I use in our restaurant.”
Highly trained chefs at other hotel restaurants are also sharing their secrets: at Aubergine in Carmel, Chef de Cuisine Justin Cogley and Executive Pastry Chef Ron Mendoza offer a “Sweet and Savory” series in their renowned kitchen, and Carmel Valley Ranch has set up a special “Adventure Kitchen” for courses with Executive Chef Tim Wood.
The Ranch offers two types of classes: a three-level series for students who want to refine their basic techniques with a pro, and activity- related classes that, for example, allow students to tour the Ranch’s organic garden and then learn how to cook its progeny. Some local offerings have themes, such as Rio Grill’s “Flavor Education Series,” Cantinetta Luca’s “Secrets of Pizza and Pasta” and Montrio Bistro’s “Artisan Series,” which features local food artisans.
“My flavor series,” says Rio’s chef, Cy Yontz, “expresses what Rio Grill is and how I cook, with bold, earthy flavors. It also is a way to get the community together, to meet friends and have a great time at Rio Grill.”
Monterey’s Stone Creek Kitchen, opened last year, makes things especially easy by offering an on-site classroom kitchen and selling cooking equipment and pantry items that can be used to make their recipes. “Our goal, when you come to our kitchen, is to inspire you to try new things and to have more fun in your kitchen,” says Co-proprietor Linda Hanger.
Other relatively new classrooms include Santa Cruz’s el Salchichero, offering butchery and charcuterie classes, Happy Girl Kitchen Co.’s Pacific Grove Organic Café, delivering preserving workshops, and Love Apple Farms’ beautiful new indoor and outdoor classrooms, home to a number of classes. (See related story, p. 40.)
If you’re willing to travel, there is also the magical Tassajara Zen Mountain Center (see p. 28) and if you get really serious, more formal training awaits you at schools like Bauman College and Monterey Peninsula College.
For a guide to all of these classes, go to www.ediblemontereybay. com, and find “Culinary Course Catalog” under the “Local Food Guides” tab.
A fifth-generation Northern Californian, Lisa Crawford Watson has enjoyed a diverse career in business, education and writing. She lives with her family on the Monterey Peninsula, where her grandmother once lived and wrote. An adjunct writing instructor for CSU Monterey Bay and Monterey Peninsula College, Lisa is also a free-lance writer, who specializes in the genres of art & architecture, health & lifestyle, food & wine. She has published various books and thousands of feature articles and columns in local and national newspapers and magazines.