|Cooking classes are sprouting up all over Baton Rouge|
On weekdays at the Louisiana Culinary Institute, budding chefs undergo rigorous training for future careers in hotels and restaurants. But on Saturdays, the institution has a different vibe. Local food enthusiasts file in for sold-out leisure classes in topics ranging from Louisiana seafood to knife skills to artisan breads. LCI launched the courses shortly after completing a new state-of-the-art facility on Airline Highway in 2008.
“We knew there was an interest there among people who wanted to take single cooking classes,” says LCI Public Affairs Director Charlie Ruffolo. “They’ve been extremely popular.”
LCI’s classes are one of several educational options sprouting in Baton Rouge over the last few years that cater to foodies, kitchen novices, couples on dates, singles, friends and retirees. The rise of the informal culinary session follows a national home-cooking trend fueled by the languid economy and the explosion of food-related television and other media. It’s hip, economical and often healthier to cook at home, and a cooking class is an engaging way to hone your skills.
Last year, Viking opened its first outdoor cooking school in the United States on the pool deck of the Hilton Capital Center in Baton Rouge, where it hosts stylish grill-centric lessons for couples and singles in search of an evening activity. Similarly, Shopper’s Choice, a barbecue outfitter on Coursey Boulevard, features classes on Friday nights.
BD Kitchen Co. began offering classes every Friday night when it moved to its new Towne Center location in 2010, and earlier this year, Fresina’s Italian Specialties launched Saturday Italian cuisine classes taught by Bite and Booze blogger Jay Ducote, who also contributes to 225. Established cookbook author and instructor Kay Ewing teaches her Everyday Gourmet Cooking School at the Royal Standard gift shop. LSU’s Leisure Class program offers year-round options like sushi-making and cupcake-decorating, and Whole Foods Market regularly teaches healthy cooking workshops.
Students of the food arts have also found Chef Peter Sclafani’s classes at Ruffino’s Restaurant, private cooking-class parties by Dana Delatte’s home-based enterprise, The Sharp Cook, and classes in authentic Turkish cooking taught through the Atlas Foundation.
LCI offers regular three-hour Saturday classes in both the culinary and pastry arts for the general public, including sessions this month and later this fall on tailgating tips, healthy Italian food, charcuterie, Thanksgiving 101 and others.
BD Kitchen Co. owner Bill Bethea says the store’s Friday night classes have become popular substitutes for dinner out. Chef Blair Kornegay, a Culinary Arts Institute-trained chef and caterer in Baton Rouge, teaches a multi-course menu there that students prepare and eat. A recent menu featured saffron mussels, Caprese salad, veal picatta, pasta primavera and Italian cream cake. “It’s a great date night,” says Bethea.
Sharp Cook founder Dana DeLatte conducts private cooking demonstrations, often tied to parties and holidays. The theme drives how much guests participate in meal preparation. Her tamale-rolling class is one of the most interactive.
“What’s so good about private cooking-class parties is that you’re entertained, you receive a full sampling of the menu and you go home with recipes,” DeLatte says. “It’s also nice because everyone already knows each other.”
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