In a college cafeteria kitchen-turned-classroom in downtown Miami, there it was: a raw, slimy, four-pound chicken — wings, legs, breast and all. It was Basic Cooking Skills at Miami-Dade College’s Wolfson Campus, and though I had been cooking regularly for a year, I had never brought myself to buy a whole chicken. Yet, one evening a few weeks ago, I broke down, seasoned and roasted that chicken, made gravy, baked buttermilk biscuits from scratch and ate it all with creamy mashed potatoes.
There are cooking classes and demos across South Florida for all kinds of tastes, ages and experience levels, from the mom who wants her child to learn simple kitchen skills to the amateur chef who wants to expand his repertoire. Most cost $75 or less, including ingredients and a meal, and if you’re trying to rein in your dining-out budget, they could even end up saving you money.
Stretched over five weeks of three- hour Wednesday sessions, Miami-Dade’s Basic Cooking Skills ($205) covered main courses such as pasta, churrasco and ribs, sides such as chayote salad, and sauces including barbecue, pesto and mojo. My fellow students were diverse, from a car dealer in his late 20s who had relied on takeout most of his adult life to best friends in their late 30s and early 40s who just wanted a fun girls’ night out. “I get lots of people in their early 20s, plus lots of empty nesters; the kids leave and they forget how to cook,” says instructor Debi Hornbeck, a 15-year restaurant veteran whose resume includes Azul at Miami’s Mandarin Oriental hotel. “They are all easy, simple recipes I do at home.”
If I can do it, so can you. Find a class, grab an apron and get cooking!
Ayesha D’Mello, 305-254-0693 or easy firstname.lastname@example.org: The Goa native teaches Indian cooking in her Pinecrest home 11 a.m.-2 p.m. most Saturdays ($75, including lunch); private classes also available.
Azul, Mandarin Oriental Miami, Miami; 305-913-8358: Periodic small-group classes with chef 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays include three-course lunch with wine, recipes and Azul apron ($150). Next session is Nov. 15.
Chef Aliza’s, 305-234-9002: Evening adult classes ($50), “Mommy and Me” kids classes ($45), plus parties.
Chef Allen’s, 305-935-2900: “The Serious Cook” allows students to work in the restaurant kitchen with chef Allen Susser and staff; by appointment, usually 3 to 8 p.m. ($195). Customized group classes also available.
Eleanor Hoh, 305-865-9297: Hong Kong-born chef teaches three-hour, afternoon and evening stir-fry workshops ($65 and up) at galleries, design showrooms and wine shops in Broward and Miami-Dade counties; appetizer and three dishes are demonstrated and served with wine pairings.
Fairchild Tropical Garden, 305-667-1651, ext. 3322; www.fairchildgarden.org (click Education, Adult Programs, then Continuing Education): Three-hour afternoon and evening classes on a range of topics; next class “Holiday Pies and Tarts” Wednesday (garden members $35-$50, others $55-$75).
Florida International University, Biscayne Bay Campus, 3000 NE 151st St., North Miami, 305-919-4500: School of Hospitality and Tourism Management offers a few weekly, noncredit, semester-long classes on such topics as Caribbean cooking and international cuisine ($299 plus university fees for Florida residents). Must first enroll by calling 305-919-4521.
Fruit & Spice Park, 305-247-5727: Seasonal classes on Asian cuisines, tropical fruits and more. Typically 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays ($25).
Johnson & Wales University, 305-913-2108: Saturday morning and Wednesday and Friday evening Chef’s Choice classes offered October-April ($75-$101.65). Schedule and registration at www.jwu.edu/florida (click Continuing & Adult Education).
La Cuisine Gourmet, 305-442-9006: High-end appliance store hosts an evening Celebrity Chef Demo Series ($50-$75); registration required.
Miami Dade College, Kendall Campus, 11011 SW 104th St., Room 3129, Miami; 305-237-2612; www.mdc.edu/kendall/ce (select Cooking Classes from the pull-down menu): Noncredit one- to four-session weekday, evening and Saturday classes on such topics as basic cooking skills (in English and Spanish), cheesemaking, fondant making, cake decoration and French cuisine ($39-$205).
Miami Dade College, Wolfson Campus, 300 NE Second Ave., Room 1260, Miami, 305-237-3120; www.communityeducation atwolfson.com (click Wolfson’s Kitchen): Noncredit one- to four-session weeknight classes (some in Spanish) on such topics as vegetarian cookery and French and Italian cuisine ($55-$205).
North One 10, 305-893-4211: Biweekly classes noon-3 p.m. Saturday with chef-owner Dewey LoSasso include three-course lunch with wine ($95). Next session Oct. 18.
Ortanique on the Mile, 305-446-7710: Chef-owner Cindy Hutson teaches students to cook a three-course meal with wine pairings one Saturday per month for two hours ($85-$95).
Prana Health Food and Vegetarian Restaurant, 305-594-6966: Intensive vegetarian classes in Spanish (translation available) 10 a.m.-3 p.m. some Sundays ($85).
Sushi Samba Dromo, 305-673-5337; www.sushisamba.com (click Happenings, then Miami Beach): Occasional sushi-rolling and sake-pairing classes ($75).
Thai Luna Sol, 2900 Sheridan Ave., Miami Beach, 305-484-0656 or pomcayeiro@gmail .com: Thai dinner classes 6-9 p.m. Saturdays for groups of 10 ($50 per person); private classes also available.
Théine, 305-774-0228: Occasional cooking classes and tea lectures.
Two Chefs, 305-663-2100: Chef-owner Jan Jorgensen leads frequent 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday classes ending in lunch with wine ($75-$150); groups of 10 or more can arrange private sessions.
University of Miami, Wellness Center, 305-284-5433: Occasional cooking classes, including vegetarian dishes ($25).
Williams-Sonoma, Merrick Park, 305-446-9421: Occasional two-hour classes with guest chefs ($65).
Café Maxx, 954-782-0606, www.cafemaxx.com: Cooking demos 5:30-7 p.m. on occasional Thursdays with chef Oliver Saucy, often with a sommelier who discusses wine pairings, followed by a sit-down dinner and wine tasting ($65).
Chef Jean-Pierre’s Cooking School, 954-563-2700: Two- and four-hour weeknight and Saturday morning classes with Jean-Pierre Brehier and guest chefs ($65-$325)
Le Bistro Restaurant, 954-946-9240: Three-hour Saturday afternoon classes with chef-owner Andy Trousdale ($50).
Lenore Nolan-Ryan Cooking School, 954-491-2340, www.lenorenolanryan.com: The caterer and former restaurateur leads “Girls Night Out, ” “Boy’s Night Out” plus grilling, seafood and other classes for 10 to 12 students ($45-$55).
Primavera Restaurant, 954-564-6363: Occasional demonstration-style, lunchtime classes with wine pairings by chef-owner Giacomo Dresseno ($40); private sessions available for groups of 10 or more.
3030 Ocean Restaurant at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa, 954-765-3129. Occasional three-course lunch classes and wine or cocktail pairings with chef Dean James Max ($60).