At the center of a big, round table sits a lazy susan bearing tiny, elegant white dishes. Each holds a mound of intriguing dried leaves that look as though they’ve been emptied from an alchemist’s vial. Over the course of the evening, everyone around the table will watch, smell, and taste as the power of those leaves is awakened through hot water and the deep knowledge shared by Roberta, Experience Tea’s owner. A certified tea specialist, she leads classes on a vast range of tea topics, exploring everything from health benefits to proper steeping techniques to the etiquette of Chinese tea ceremonies or British-tea hot tubs. Within a warmly lit storefront lined by painted brick walls and a veritable library of tea varieties, students can also learn how to create their own signature brew in blending workshops. Even customers who stop in for a pouch of loose-leaf are likely to end up indulging in a rich sensory experience as Roberta offers them a sample and shares tasting notes.
Growing up on a Minnesota farm gave Pamela Ziemann an up-close view of the United States’ food-production industry. She watched as chemicals, hormones, and genetically modified organisms became nearly ubiquitous in the farming process, as they helped to guarantee bounteous yields, although she was anything but impressed. She decided to pave her own path, circling back to organic, raw, sustainable nutrition.
Today at Elemental Cuisine, Pamela uses her experience as a public speaker to educate people about the food system and help them return to a more natural way of eating. During her online classes, she sheds light on how today's commercial food supply can be detrimental to our health, then discusses how plant-based diets can improve mental clarity and physical well-being. She pairs this discussion with cooking instruction, demonstrating how to make wraps, sauces, and dressings, and maximize food’s nutritional value without filling the saltshaker with crushed multivitamins.
As a teenager, Katya Difani wrestled with chronic health issues that left her physical and spiritual wellness out of whack. From her misfortune blossomed something beautiful: an appreciation for the healing effects of nature's bounty. After obtaining a degree in herbal science, Katya opened Herban Wellness, a shop stocked with holistic and natural remedies for common health complaints. From bulk herbs born at local farms, each vetted in person by Katya herself, to house-blended teas that soothe allergies, Herban Wellness’s selection holds its own against prescription meds.
The store also hosts practical classes that teach customers how to implement holistic cures in their own homes. During one session, Katya compiles the ingredients for all-natural lotions, salves, and lip balms that students can make in their own blenders after acing the instructional course.
Smoke and fierce heat rise from a battalion of Weber gas grills and Big Green Egg smokers as barbecue docents line up in front of them, ready to wrangle rafts of raw meat into expertly grilled, smoked, and sauced feasts. In classes that range from three to seven hours, Phoenix BBQ and Grilling School's instructors impart their knowledge of sauces and marinades. They also teach students how to brine, smoke, and grill ingredients such as ribs, turkeys, chickens, peppers, pork, and veggies, all of which are provided. The three dudes in charge have been leading classes since 1998. Head honcho Stu McMullen draws upon myriad cooking classes and international travels to develop exciting recipes, while "sauce king" Eric Viken introduces sauces that can enchant palates and save accidentally overcooked meats. The barbecue experts hold classes onsite or in private backyards, enabling the family cat to finally learn to do something productive with its hunting gifts.
FareStart began in 1992, when founder David Lee realized that homeless people needed more than just food. His innovative job-training program has changed the lives of nearly 7,000 disadvantaged individuals so far. After men, women, and teens complete free food-service training—which includes life-skills training and individual case management—they can take advantage of job-placement services. Graduates of the program boast a 90% employment rate, with some even ending up at the FareStart restaurant on Virginia Street. During their training, students get on-the-job experience at FareStart Cafe.
Beginning at 7:30 a.m. Monday–Friday, the FareStart cooks start churning out quiches, breakfast sandwiches, and fresh bagels. Lunch, which stretches into early evening hours Monday–Thursday, features hot and cold sandwiches, such as a grilled-zucchini sandwich with hummus or a chicken-curry-salad sandwich topped with dried cranberries and a spring mix.
Designed specifically for homeless and disadvantaged youths, the FareStart Barista Training & Education Program opens up a vital career path for teens. The espresso machines at the café are manned by trainees in this program, who brew lattes, americanos, and cappuccinos for caffeine-hungry customers. Pro tip: if you bring your own cup, you’ll get a steep discount on a double-shot of espresso or a drip coffee.
A native of France, Christophe Rougny has slung spirits to thirsty cocktail quaffers in high-end locales from Cannes and Monte Carlo to New York City, plus backstage at events such as Ozzfest. Take a triple shot of scholarship as your mixological headmaster guides you through a 90-minute primer on everything you need to know to turn your home bar or office conference room into a potable paradise. Lessons include classic cocktail recipes and ratios, bartending techniques, and puzzling brain-teasers to frighten away slow-witted pink elephants. The lion’s share of the class is spent with the students mixing, pouring, and sampling their own drinks, helping them develop cocktail-shaker muscle memory that can also be invaluable when shaking dice and Magic 8 Balls. Classes consist of approximately 12 people, and include all the alcohol you need to invent your own signature drink.