Whether pursuing a life as a professional cook or a behind-the-scenes mover in culinary arts and restaurant management, the students at JNA Institute of Culinary Arts have honed their craft with professionalism and skill for more than 20 years. Students learn real-world lessons in a demanding professional setting, from running a kitchen to pleasing food critics with menus sung in four-part harmony. JNA shows off the fruits of these labors at its onsite restaurant, where the food is both prepared and served by students. The restaurant boasts a seasonal menu, gracing plates with items that have ranged from housemade gelato to cornmeal-dusted scallops.
Skilled cake decorators and sugar manipulators lead classes at Mother of Cakes, teaching at-home bakers how to create lavish desserts for special occasions. The hands-on sessions range in subject matter, from cake fundamentals for beginners to advanced courses that teach budding artists how to mold edible shoes or master “vinism,” the art of draping cake in frosting vines lifelike enough to attract Tarzan to your birthday party.
Years ago, Joyce Nichols suffered a loss that triggered emotional overeating, leaving her 30 pounds overweight. Thanks to her professional background in fitness, she knew that she needed a weight-loss plan healthier than a crash diet, a dependence on supplements, or a resolution to carry a set of fun-house mirrors around with her at all times. So she started developing a set of recipes reminiscent of her grandmother's comforting cooking, yet lighter and rich in fat-burning ingredients. She put a bikini in her kitchen to remind her of her weight-loss goal.
Today, a trimmed-down Joyce shares the knowledge she's gleaned at her studio, The Bikini Kitchen, during classes that are part nutrition lesson and part motivational coaching. Groups prepare four-course dinners of brunch menus, learning to make dishes such as coconut-encrusted chicken with sweet dill sauce, heirloom-tomato bruschetta, or fried chicken. Joyce's kitchen is cozy yet spacious, with warm-hued cabinets, wood floors, and separate stations to accommodate guests with nut allergies.
Aiming to make exotic cooking an approachable feat for even the least experienced chef, Let's Cultivate Food employs friendly chefs who perform culinary magic in private kitchens, traveling up to 25 miles from Conshohocken, Philadelphia (extra fee for highway tolls, bridges, and city parking) to your home. With a variety of themed menus to choose from—including sushi-making, exotic stir-fried rice, and soups—cooking-party hosts can set their food preferences before a duo of chefs arrives with all the necessary fresh ingredients. Participants then learn to cook dishes, such as Pad Thai or BLT spring rolls, before enjoying each dish in the comfort of their homes and the familiar grooves of a favorite chair.
As the name suggests, the artistic minds behind Petals & Paper channel their inspiration into two kinds of unique creations: modern floral arrangements and custom invitations. Designers craft each bouquet according to the client’s needs and tastes, arraying bridal bouquets into vintage or contemporary designs and crafting corsages, headpieces, and fresh flower rings to match students' prom dresses or gym shorts. Stationery experts can customize missives to reflect any occasion, from baby announcements adorned with animal silhouettes to wedding invitations accented with bright hues and beach themes. Aside from its services, Petals & Paper also tutors pupils in the art of flower arrangement, imparting novices with the knowledge to avoid classic mistakes, such as pairing a bird of paradise with a posy of salmon.
Little Hands Art Studio's owner and teacher, Jessica Heisen, equips budding artisans with the supplies and know-how to explore their own creativity with delectable results. Heisen’s classes for adults, children, and intergenerational duos guide students as they bake cupcakes and top them with decorations such as fondant, mini marshmallows, frostings in piped pastry bags, and cookies hit by a shrink ray. Beyond the regular classes, Little Hands hosts private birthday parties for youngsters and, on Thursday and Sunday nights, grownups-only workshops, which encourage participants to bring their own wine and mingle as they create pastry art that reflects their inner muses’ 401(k)s. The studio also teaches children how to whip up afternoon snacks such as pastas and muffins, and conducts occasional beading and other art classes.
Golden splatters of magma embellish the eatery's fire-red walls and draw eyes to the back of the dining room, where a 10-foot-high volcano pulses with flames. Well, it's actually a custom oven, but it houses real hot lava rocks designed to cook up to 10 large Mediterranean-inspired pies in two minutes flat.
Chefs top dough made fresh daily with eclectic ingredients ranging from grilled eggplant and sun-dried tomatoes to smoked gouda and meatballs. Sharing space inside the specialty oven are vulcanas, similar to calzones and jam-packed with meats, veggies, and gooey cheese. Other fare includes certified Angus beef burgers and pitawiches, all aptly washed down with chilly fountain drinks sourced from Magma Pizza & Pita's sister restaurant, located inside of a real underground igloo.