Stir It Up

Tired of searching for the restaurant that turns out a perfect cassoulet? Learn how to make it yourself.

By The Editors May 19, 2009 Published in the February 2008 issue of Portland Monthly

IN A TOWN where debating the merits of arugula versus mâche seems to trump discussions about Sam Adams’s chances of winning the mayoral election, we have a hunch there’s a plethora of home cooks who dream of going pro. But if you’re not quite ready to sign up for an associate’s degree at Western Culinary Institute, try satisfying your culinary curiosity with a cooking class at one of the following “schools” of fine cuisine.

$450-$1,000 per series; 2818 SE Pine
At chef Robert Reynolds’s sky-lighted kitchen studio, classes are grounded in French technique—which means that first you’ll get a lesson in French history, then you’ll get your hands in the flour, and at the end you’ll dine on, say, leeks vinaigrette and quiche lorraine. Whether you sign up for an eight-week intensive or eight consecutive nights of cooking, you’ll gain a lifelong mentor in the process.

$45-$125 per class; 231 NW 11th Ave
One of the first venues in town to offer professional cooking instruction to everyday culinaires, this wine-store-cum-kitchen-shop offers classes that cover everything from basic knife skills to preparing a multicourse Indian or Italian feast. A rotating cast of visiting instructors keeps the curriculum fresh. You can choose between sit-back-and-relax demonstrations and hands-on courses, but no matter what the theme, you’ll enjoy a few glasses of merlot as it unfolds.

$55-$100; 1701 SW Jefferson
On weekdays, this professional culinary institute (founded in 2006) trains tuition-paying students to become chefs. On weekends, Portland foodies gather to learn serious technique—from how to butcher a chicken to the principles of sautéeing. There won’t be quizzes at the end of the day, but you’ll still learn how to properly cut an onion or simply how to taste food in a more nuanced way.

$35-$70 per class; multiple locations
If you’ve seen Caprial and John Pence’s OPB cooking shows, their demonstration classes will seem familiar. There’s the same husband-and-wife banter (“Honey, does this need more salt?”) and the same magic tricks (“Here’s a pork shoulder that we roasted earlier”). You’ll only use your hands for taking notes and picking up wineglasses—until the end, when you’ll use them to dig into a professionally prepared meal.

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