When pursuing a culinary degree at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris isn't going to fit into your schedule, there's Sour Flour, a school dedicated solely to the preparation of one of San Francisco's most iconic foods: sourdough. Held in the Mission at La Victoria Bakery, its workshops draw aspiring home bakers fascinated by the serendipitous product of the Bay Area's ambient yeasts. Of course, Sour Flour breads also pop up in baskets at dozens of S.F. restaurants, and can be bought at most markets. But there's nothing more fulfilling than learning to bake your own delicious flatbread, then taking a starter home as a nucleus for loaves of chewy sourdough and excellent pizzas, indefinitely.
At In The Kitchen (ITK) Culinary, down-to-earth restaurant chefs introduce cooks of all ages and skill levels to new techniques and cuisine. They offer a wide variety of classes, teaching everything from gourmet sauce making to cupcake decorating to knife skills. Chef Scott Davis, whom youngsters affectionately call The Culinary Dude, has degrees in both culinary arts and early-childhood education, and he created the kids' cooking program for Whole Foods. He teaches kids aged 4–14 how to follow recipes, safely cut and peel vegetables, or roll and bake patty-cakes.
Students learn how to create meals in an elegant kitchen with a flat-panel TV with surround sound, a subzero fridge and freezer, two six-burner Wolf cooktops, and two Wolf double ovens. Clients can rent out this space for private parties or private cooking classes.
Both kids and adults can learn the art of cake decoration within the walls of Sugar 'n Spice. During classes, they fill bags with buttercream icing and pipe flowers, ruffles, and letters on the tops of cakes and cupcakes. Grown-ups can even learn to bake cakes and cake pops for upcoming birthdays, weddings, or mortgage closings. Those wanting to practice their skills at home can pick up the necessary accoutrements at the on-site shop.
Les Petit Chefs Academy immerses kids ages 5–16 in the world of culinary art and promotes healthy eating habits through hands-on cooking classes. Each 60- to 90-minute class of 8–10 students tosses young noggins chewy nuggets of information about kitchen terminology and etiquette while filling hands with whisks, pans, and a deep respect for fire. In Kinder Chefs classes, 5- and 6-year-olds whip up healthy grub while honing motor skills. Instructors make basic table manners fun and begin to help solve mysteries of the food pyramid, such as why a tomato is a fruit rather than a vegetable or a juicy red fish. Junior Chefs classes for children of the 7- to 10-year-old persuasion chart a course through lessons designed to help students become more nutritionally savvy, and Senior Chefs helps the 11- to 16-year-old crowd learn to independently assemble entire meals.