As a fervent cook and baker, most people wouldn’t suspect me to attend any of the pricey classes that so many novices succumb to. These classes have been a common gift recently, and I don’t think it’s beneath me to take a tutorial for a foray I’ve never explored. The classes I had a chance to take were all particularly challenging subjects at the time: pasta, bread and croissants.
Here’s a bit about my experience at each place and why you should check out each of these classes.
1) Cooking Fools, 1916 W. North Ave.
Cooking Fools is a charming storefront that graces a streets of Wicker Park. It’s a bit hidden by the market at the front of the store and a lesser known spot for classes. It’s just as pricey as the heavy hitters, but you may be able to find a good deal for the classes. The pasta making class is most popular by far.
What I Liked: The big class with tons of space made this less intimidating. The teachers were great, and they made sure to walk around to watch and see if you got the technique. After the class, making pasta on my own seemed like a piece of cake.
What Needed Improvement: When it came time to make the pasta, everything was thrown into one pot, so you couldn’t taste your own. This was by far my biggest gripe of the class. I also felt our pasta was a bit overdone and not al dente enough.
2) Sur La Table, 900 N. Michigan Ave.
This high end kitchen store does offer cooking classes as select locations. The space is pretty small for how big the store is. I opted for the croissant class, and it is definitely one to do in a class for the first time, as there is a ton of technique involved.
What I Liked: I felt like I learned a ton, and we really went through every step of the process, which is hard when it comes to croissants. There were helpers around the kitchen to stop by and look at our dough, clean up the space and answer any questions.
What Needed Improvement: I didn’t feel like the class was structured in the best way, as you have to go through the same steps multiple times to make different types of croissants as a group. While the teacher was knowledgeable, she wasn’t the best teacher and wasn’t always able to explain why some croissants didn’t turn out as they should have. The teachers were fast to admit that the 3 hour class wasn’t really enough to make croissants, and we didn’t allow the dough to proof quite long enough. As a result, the croissants weren’t nearly as flaky as they should have been.
3) The Chopping Block, Various Locations
This was definitely my favorite of the three classes. The Chopping Block is known for its cooking classes, and for good reason. The space is huge, and they have multiple kitchens and teachers. There is also a wide variety of classes, from bread basics to full meals.
What I Liked: Bread making can take a while, and I appreciated that we were welcomed inside with homemade biscuits with an orange honey butter. It made the wait much more bearable. The teacher was full of energy and clearly an expert on bread making. There was plenty of time for questions as well as eating the bread that my individual group made.