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Depending on your skill set and the type of class you seek, options for cooking classes range from basic (like how to make challah bread) to advanced (such as how to debone and butterfly a leg of lamb), and even include some online courses. Here are 11 great examples of the best cooking classes around the nation.
For home cooks who want to say they attended a famous culinary school:
The Culinary Institute of America is highly acclaimed, boasting many top chefs on its list of alumni. It offers classes in each of its locations (New York, California and Texas), with topics ranging from “Holiday Pies” to “Gluten-Free Baking” to “The Flavors of Asia.”
The Institute of Culinary Education is probably the second best-known culinary school in America, and it actually has the largest program of hands-on recreational cooking classes and baking classes in the world. The classes are offered day and night, 355 days a year. Upcoming courses include “Poutine & More,” “Geode Macarons” and “Big, Bad Brunch Dishes.”
A lesser known but still esteemed cooking college is Johnson & Wales. Its classes for amateur cooks run the gamut from “Emulsions 101” to “Sushi and Sake Pairing” to “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” with renowned chef Peter Reinhart.
For dessert lovers:
Chicago is the home of The French Pastry School of Kennedy-King College, which offers classes aptly called Food Enthusiast workshops. In these courses, the students can learn how to make buttercream, how to make homemade ice cream, and how to execute French-style brunch ideas, among other skills.
Of all the academies in the world, the most awesome must be the Chocolate Academy, also in Chicago. Aficionados can learn everything there is to know about chocolate and practice skills like making chocolate figurines and designing chocolate centerpieces. (To me, this sounds like heaven on earth.)
For novice chefs:
Sur la Table is a store found in malls all over the United States. Not only can you find amazing cookware and ingredients there, but it also often offers basic cooking classes focusing on things like pasta making at home, knife techniques and cookie decorating.
Milk Street is a company similar to the ever popular America’s Test Kitchen in that it creates and tweaks recipes repeatedly until it has achieved perfection. (Makes sense…it was formed by Christopher Kimball after he left ATK.) Milk Street has a school in Boston where the home cook can learn skills such as spice blending and holiday cookie making.
For cooks who crave the unconventional:
Hipcooks is a unique cooking school where no recipes or measurements are used. Students are encouraged to rely on their instincts and imaginations to create the dish of the night. Cleverly named classes range from “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” (focusing on Argentinian cuisine) to “Thai One On” (an immersion into Thai foods).
NYC is home to the De Gustibus Cooking School, where tastings and demonstrations are as common as education in basic cooking skills. These classes are perfect for folks who value the eating as much as the cooking. Michael Solomonov of the highly rated restaurant Zahav is a recent guest teacher at this school.
For amateur chefs who’d rather cook in the comfort of their own home:
Fans of Bravo’s Top Chef will jump at the chance to take online courses taught by former contestants. Top Chef University teaches things like the proper way to set up your kitchen and how to make duck confit. It even has several classes on the least favorite course of all Top Chef competitors: dessert.
Regardless of skill level or location, suitable cooking classes are within reach. They’re perfect for date night or a girlfriends’ getaway, and tickets to a cooking class would be a great gift idea for the home cook in your life.
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas I bake 200 loaves of bread. —Douglas Jennings, Ottawa, Kansas
I love peanut butter and chocolate, so I combined recipes to blend the two. This cake is heavenly served plain or topped with ice cream. —Lisa Varner, El Paso, Texas
These lemon squares are a delightful recipe from my mother's file. I've been serving it for many years. This lemon bar recipe has a wonderful tangy flavor, and they're always a hit. The color and shape make them a nice addition to a platter of cookies. —Etta Soucy, Mesa, Arizona
I always make this bread pudding recipe for my dad on his birthday and on holidays. He says it tastes exactly like the bread pudding with nutmeg he enjoyed as a child. —Donna Powell, Montgomery City, Missouri
As someone who grew up in the country, I love getting out into nature whenever I can. I also love home-style recipes, including these yummy brownies. —Carol Prewett, Cheyenne, Wyoming
When you tuck into this warm and comforting fresh peach cobbler, you won't miss the extra fat and calories a bit! —Mary E. Relyea, Canastota, New York
Chocolate lovers will go crazy over these cookies that feature loads of chocolate! When friends ask me to make "those cookies," I know exactly what recipe they mean.-Rebecca Jendry, Spring Branch, Texas
A friend gave me this recipe several years ago, and it's my favorite. I love to serve the melt-in-your mouth corn bread hot from the oven with butter and syrup. It gets rave reviews on holidays and at potluck dinners. —Nicole Callen, Auburn, California
These easy-to-make cookies simply melt in your mouth! I've passed the recipe around to many friends. After I gave the recipe to my sister, she entered the cookies in a local fair and won the "best of show" prize! —Sylvia Ford, Kennett, Missouri
Similar to an almond crescent, this coffee cake is light and flaky, with a rich almond center. It's so versatile you can serve it for dessert, breakfast or brunch. It will taste as if it was made from scratch at a bakery, yet the packaged puff pastry makes the recipe quick and easy. —Gina Idone, Staten Island, New York
Here’s a simple cake that’s rich, elegant and over-the-top chocolaty. For finishing touches, add powdered sugar, cocoa or liqueur-flavored whipped cream. —Marie Parker, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
My family's holiday meal consists of different soups and breads. This is one of the favorite breads during that meal. —Bonnie Myers, Callaway, Nebraska
On a sizzling day, we crave something light, airy and cool. Nothing says summer like cream puffs stuffed with peaches and whipped cream. —Angela Benedict, Dunbar, West Virginia
When I make these slightly sweet biscuits, sometimes I cut them and fold over one side about a third of the way for a more traditional look. —Carol Holladay, Danville, Alabama
Here's a basic yeast-risen white bread that bakes up deliciously golden brown. I enjoy the aroma of freshly baked homemade bread in my kitchen. —Sandra Anderson, New York, New York
I always prepare this roll recipe from my husband's family for our church conferences. Serve them with scrambled eggs, and you have a filling breakfast. As a variation, you can replace the cinnamon filling with a mixture of raisins and pecans. —Shenai Fisher, Topeka, Kansas
There is a standing joke between friends that whenever I'm asked to bring a dish to a party, it always contains bacon. My partner loves bacon-wrapped dates and my grandmother got me hooked on date-nut bread, so I made a sweet and salty combination of these recipes. —Terrie Gammon, Eden Prairie, Minnesota
My kids love to help me make this delicious bread recipe. It's quite easy, and they enjoy the fact that they can be eating fresh bread in less than two hours! —Denise Boutin, Grand Isle, Vermont
I love this recipe because it combines three of my favorite flavors: coffee, hazelnuts and cherries. —Joan Pecsek, Chesapeake, Virginia
Creme brulee is our favorite dessert and we love Irish cream liqueur, so I decided to put them together for a dinner finale we truly love. With a last name like Moynihan and a husband named Patrick, you can tell St. Patrick's Day is a very big holiday in our house! -Joyce Moynihan, Lakeville, Minnesota
To showcase abundant fall cranberries, make this beautiful lattice-topped pie. A dollop of orange cream complements the slightly tart flavor. &mash;Taste of Home Test Kitchen
For a change of pace, you can substitute fresh or frozen peach slices for the pineapple in this old-fashioned recipe. —Bernardine Melton, Paola, Kansas
Years ago, I drove 4-1/2 hours to a cake contest, holding my entry on my lap the whole way. But it paid off. One bite and you'll see why this velvety beauty won first prize. —Sandra Johnson, Tioga, Pennsylvania
I created this creamy cheesecake using two favorites—caramel and pecans. It's a stunning cake and rivals any I've tasted. —Deidre Sizer, Cedarville, Ohio
To surprise my banana-loving family, I made this dessert for a reunion, where it stood out among the usual fare. These special treats are something to look at and mouthwatering delicious. —Ruby Williams, Bogalusa, Louisiana
Why limit a great dessert to just one kind of citrus fruit? Thanks to orange and lemon, this lovely pie packs a bold sweet-tart flavor! -Barbara Carlucci, Orange Park, Florida
This golden bread has a soft, tender texture and the perfect amount of cardamom flavor in every bite. Slices are especially good with a cream cheese spread or fresh honey butter. Carla Miller, Pasco, Washington
I love serving impressive desserts that look like you spent hours in the kitchen when, in reality, they're really easy to make. This is one of those recipes. —Cheryl Lundquist, Wake Forest, North Carolina
This gorgeous strudel has just what you crave this time of year: thin layers of flaky crust and lots of juicy apples. —Darlene Brenden, Salem, Oregon