Escoffier’s chef instructors kindle flames of passion on stovetops and in their students' hearts with expert lessons detailing techniques, new recipes, and healthy at-home alternatives for amateur cooks. Groups of 16 students gather in professionally equipped kitchens to acquire new skills they can use at home or in department-store displays under the tutelage of academy staff or guest chefs from local restaurants. Common topics cover regional staples such as Texas barbecue or illuminate artisanal cheese making and other gourmet subjects. Seasonally themed holiday courses, such as gingerbread-house making or gluten-free desserts, share festive alternatives to peppermint forts and tinsel-chip cookies.
e-Careers helps students flesh out their resumés and advance their careers with continuing education, available online, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The company hosts study programs that detail children’s education, web design, and most foreign languages, excluding the language of robot love. To simulate the traditional classroom experience as much as possible, each course comes to life with animated content, video and audio training, and virtual laboratories. Likewise, communicative features such as discussion boards allow participants to collaborate and converse, eliminating the need to send tweets when the teacher’s back is turned.
Gung-ho gourmands have been macheting their way into Jeffrey's since 1975 to sample the inviting bistro's menu of small plates, soups, salads, and classic comforts served with gourmet twists. Under the toque of its new chef, Deegan McClung of Uchi fame, Jeffrey's carbon-conscious kitchen is amply stocked with many locally produced ingredients that make their way into the dinner menu's savory seasonal entrees and fleeting nightly specials. Start with squash soup with crème fraîche ($12), plus small plates of pickled shrimp with sesame-fried green tomatoes ($15) and the house specialty, crispy oysters ($15). Discriminating diners and their monocled grizzly-bear companions will find much to love in the lemon-crusted flounder ($34) luxuriating on a bed of pistachio puree with morels and sunflower seeds. A side of caramelized green beans and house-cured bacon ($8) goes particularly well with crispy pork shank ($24) surrounded by an entourage of sweet potato branbant, ramp bulbs, fresh fava beans, and pickled mustard seeds in a pork jus. A decadent dessert of banana-pudding ice cream sandwiches with house-made vanilla wafers ($10) or the chef's cheese selections ($7–$19) will finish the feast on a sweet note no matter how often one's blind date brags about exterminating the Jedi in one fell swoop.
Nicole Butler grew up cooking two different kinds of food. Her mother preferred cuisine using French-inspired flavors and techniques, and her father adhered to recipes for down-home comfort foods. Being from southwestern Louisiana, Nicole didn't find these two styles to be that disparate, and she recognized the influences that each had in creating the region's iconic Cajun cuisine.
Nicole brought memories of those flavors to Austin, where she received her formal culinary training from Le Cordon Bleu. This education introduced her to the benefits of cooking with local and sustainable ingredients, which encouraged her to rethink the recipes she'd cooked throughout her childhood. At Beau Cherie Cajun Cooking, she combines homespun cooking tips with those she learned at culinary school, teaching students how to prepare relatively healthy Cajun staples without sacrificing the bold flavors.
Each hands-on lesson addresses a different theme, spending more then three hours on Cajun classics, Louisiana comfort foods, or French dishes. Recipes such as red beans and rice and beef bourguignon represent the cultural extremes, but dishes such as creamy bisque with crawfish tails and brandy demonstrate how the various styles work together in Cajun cuisine. After preparing a four-course meal, students sample the food before taking the leftovers home to practice for any upcoming food fights.
From the elegant and elephant-arted confines of their new Southaven restaurant, Bangkok Alley’s Thara and Dottie Burana keep the fresh fish swimming into their lunch and dinner dishes, where they morph into schools of sushi and Thai concoctions both creative and traditional. Starters such as the shrimp hompa—which envelops its shrimp with golden-fried panko and sweet-and-sour sauce ($6)—irrigate parched mouth-deserts to create an inviting climate for the seafood keow han, a mélange of shrimp, scallops, and the fish of the day served in green curry with basil sauce ($20). Otherwise, silence the howls of were-stomachs with heartier fare such as a grilled strip steak and panang sauce served with grilled asparagus and squash ($20), or a panang curry underscored with a coconut base and garnished with chopped Kaffir lime leaf (up to $14 with choice of protein).