Whether you’re tired of heating up ravioli from Trader Joe’s and calling it a meal or you want to transform yourself into a full-on gourmand, there’s a cooking class in Los Angeles that will change your game.
These classes cover a lot of ground: weekend sushi-making, date-night classes for two, casual forays into unknown cuisines — there’s even a class that discourages measurement tools in any form. All of which means you have no more excuses for staying out of the kitchen.
10. Bleu Ribbon Kitchen at Le Cordon Bleu
Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena and Hollywood are two of 30 such schools across the world, and they offer a variety of vocational programs that bestow diplomas and associate degrees on professional chefs-in-training. The more casual chef can take one-off classes at its Bleu Ribbon Kitchen program at the Pasadena campus. The workshops teach participants the finer points of chicken butchery, Tuscan cooking and dim sum, and are offered nights and weekends. You won’t get a diploma, but you might get an embroidered apron. bleuribbonkitchen.com/pasadena.
9. Surfas Culinary District
Surfas Culinary District is well known for its exhaustive supply of cooking essentials and restaurant supplies, but it also hosts cooking classes inside the Test Kitchens at its Culver City and Costa Mesa locations. Most of the classes focus on a single item (gnocchi, macarons) or cuisine (Italian, Mexican, Indian), and there are seasonal camps and special classes for kids as well. surfasonline.com.
A cooking class without measuring devices or recipes? If it sounds crazy, you haven’t taken a class at Hipcooks. “My father said a recipe is someone else’s idea of food,” says Kyrsten Beidelman, manager of Hipcooks' two locations, in East and West Los Angeles. She says the focus is on “freeing people from measuring” and “not only teaching people how to cook, but how to enjoy the process of cooking.” That means lots of improvising and experimenting. Both L.A. locations offer around 60 different types of classes (where you make everything from Thai food to paella to sushi). Classes usually have 14 students, and every class ends in a “beautiful dinner party,” Beidelman says. hipcooks.com.
7. Chef Tech
Chef Tech Cooking School in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood of Long Beach dabbles in a little bit of everything, offering classes for professional chefs and bakers, first-time cooks, cooks with a special interests (paella, Indian food) and, of course, kids. Cofounders Amy Loe and Teri Appleton teach all the classes themselves and have been known to place graduates of their professional program into restaurant kitchens. Most classes range in size from eight to 16 people, but Loe and Appleton run larger classes for cheaper rates that allow people to sample a class without the usual financial commitment. When the learning's over, everyone gets to eat — even in the knife skills class, where guacamole and salsas are often on the menu. cheftechcookingschool.com.
6. Spork Foods
Sisters Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg of Spork Foods decided to go vegan in college, a time when “there weren’t a ton of options” for the meat-and-dairy-free population, says Goldberg. Their desperation for decent-tasting vegan food resulted in lots of home-cooked meals. Of course, the appetite for vegan food has grown exponentially, and the siblings feed it with classes in West Hollywood and at Vegan Scene in Venice. “Every class we teach sells out about a month in advance,” Goldberg says. Those classes include vegan sushi making, Thanksgiving dinner preparation and the creation of comfort foods. Despite the strictly vegan (and often gluten-free) syllabus, Goldberg says that many of their students aren’t vegan, although some have transitioned thanks to the classes. Spork also has a celebrity following; Emily and Zooey Deschanel wrote the foreword to the sisters' 2011 recipe book, Spork-Fed. Most two-and-a-half-hour classes are taught by Engel and Goldberg, and class size is limited to 12. All classes include a four-course family-style meal. sporkfoods.com.
FoodStory in downtown L.A. has a singular focus on Japanese homestyle cooking. Owner Yoko Isassi grew up in Japan, in a family focused on food. “I was always a hungry kid. I had to help them, in order to feed myself,” she says. In her classes, Isassi teaches family recipes and offers tips such as what kinds of soy sauce to shop for, as well as the history of the ingredients and the dish itself. Her ramen class has been filling up quickly, although she admits that when most people see what it takes to make ramen from scratch — and learn how exhaustive it is — they “appreciate how good it is to go out and eat it.” Isassi also leads a popular class tours of the L.A. Seafood Market, where she buys fish and brings it back to the classroom to make Japanese-style fish dishes for lunch. Cooking classes are limited to 10 people, and food is always served. foodstory.com.
4. The Matthew Kenney Academy
The Matthew Kenney Academy in Venice perches atop recently opened vegan restaurant Plant Food and Wine on Abbot Kinney and overlooks a luscious backyard. The plant-based cooking school emphasizes cutting-edge culinary technique paired with raw cuisine (there’s an impressive row of dehydrators in the state-of-the-art classroom). The classes are meant to “bridge the gap between nutrition and culinary arts” when it comes to vegan cuisine, according to the school’s marketing director, Leigh Shaplen. In the kitchen, you’ll find students from all over the world coming to learn how to turn raw or minimally processed, plant-based ingredients into artful plates of delicious food. While there’s a professional track, there are also one-off intensive classes such as the Art of Raw Chocolate and Raw Food for Kids. matthewkenneycuisine.com.
3. Gourmandise School
Interested in baking French pastries, making buckwheat noodles from scratch, crafting a better pizza or getting busy in the kitchen for a date night? The courses at the Gourmandise School are wildly diverse thanks to the eight expert teachers on staff. In addition to the school’s breadth, one thing that makes the class experience different from other schools is that “everyone does everything,” according to co-owner and pastry chef Hadley Hughes. That means there’s no fear that you’ll be stuck chopping onions while someone else is learning how to debone a chicken. Class sizes range from eight to 16. Some classes, like the Bastille Day Dinner, include a three-course meal, plus Champagne; others, like the Intro to French Macarons: The Italian Method, promise a “macaron buffet.” thegourmandiseschool.com.
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2. New School of Cooking
For a peek into the New School of Cooking’s culinary offerings, you only have to walk down West Washington Boulevard in Culver City. The street-side windows offer a glimpse into the school’s gleaming commercial kitchen and of aspiring chefs hard at work. Students range from those who want a job in a top L.A. kitchen (graduates have gone on to Milo & Olive and Bucato) to those who want to start their own food business to those who just want to learn how to make pasta at home. Kids get in on the action, too, with cooking camps and one-off cooking classes. A nice bonus if you need a snack before class: The school has an attached cafe that sells pastries cooked on site. newschoolcafe.com.
1. Institute of Domestic Technology
There are cooking classes about cooking dishes and there are cooking classes about making ingredients. The classes at the Institute of Domestic Technology — Pickle Crafting, Bread and Butter, Gin & Tonic and the like — fall into the latter category. Founded and directed by self-described “lapsed creative director” Joseph Shuldiner, the school tackles food processes often taken for granted. Most classes are held at the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, which has a basement speakeasy (it’s next to the bowling alley filmed in There Will Be Blood) and a “very Downton Abbey” servants’ kitchen, according to Shuldiner. Expect original recipes and “Macgyver-type components” in every class, like the secrets behind making clear ice in Cocktail Crafting. The full-day Foodcrafting 101, a crash course in the Institute’s anti-commercialization ethos (bread, cheese, jam, and mustard are tackled), is one of its most popular classes. Food classes are capped at 16 students, while cocktail classes may have up to 20. Single-subject classes run two hours, while full-day classes are six hours long and include lunch. instituteofdomestictechnology.com.