I Wish Lessons’ professionally guided classes convene in various venues throughout Chicago, Boston, DC, and Detroit, uniting and educating like-minded learners in vibrant social settings. The company’s hundreds of teachers have educated countless learners while introducing them to new friends and planning private events, including birthday parties and baby showers. Classes broach a multitude of engaging, lighthearted subjects, such as beer and bacon pairing, scotch tasting, cupcake decorating, and sushi rolling.
A row of brown aprons lines the seafoam green wall in the kitchen at Give Me Some Sugar. Students wrap themselves in these aprons in preparation for lessons taught by seasoned chef instructors. In basic classes, students squeeze piping bags filled with fresh buttercream to adorn pre-made cakes with rosettes, shells, and blueprints of perpetual-motion machines. Specialty classes show students how to work with specific ingredients, such as fondant classes in which participants cut out shapes and letters, or cake ball classes in which students learn to decorate round shapes with sprinkles and candy and how to pump basketballs full of cake. Students age 8 and up of almost any skill level can find a class that fits and don't have to worry about procuring their own icing bags or aprons, because the studio provides all needed supplies. Staff members will also ensure gluten-free or vegan supplies are on hand with prior arrangement.
Attention to detail is key at Ipsento, where staffers artfully decorate lattes and taste test roasted coffee beans daily to guarantee their perfection. This kind of culture starts with Ipsento’s owner, who flies around the world sampling coffee while building rapport with bean producers and paying them more than fair-trade and market prices.
Ipsento serves its freshly roasted coffee in a cozy café where patrons can chat or type studiously on a fake laptop made out of cardboard. The front room is dominated by a small roaster and a counter behind which talented baristas steam milk and pull shots from a rebuilt and retrofitted La Marzocco machine. Using Jo Snow and other locally made syrups, they create cardamom-rose lattes and the signature Ipsento latte, flavored with coconut milk, honey, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. A small set of stairs leads to the back room, which is decorated with framed photos and windows repurposed as wall art. In this serene environment, music plays as patrons sip coffee and eat made-to-order sandwiches on croissants or sliced bread.
Sometimes finicky eaters can become fascinated by food when they have a hand in making it themselves. The Kids' Table's proprietor Elena Marre discovered this with her own sons when they started helping her prepare meals. Eventually she took this idea and created her own family cooking school geared toward children aged 2–16.
During classes, kids prep produce at tot-sized countertops and sinks. They whisk together ingredients with tools calibrated to their little hands as they learn to appreciate varied flavors and textures apart from “plain” and “unslimey.” Parents can get in on the action by working alongside their tots during classes or by signing up to learn how to make baby food, create family meals, or please picky eaters.
With baskets full of hand-plucked, wild blueberries, Vincent Colombet and his cousins happily crammed into their Alsatian grandmother's tiny kitchen. In that quaint room, equipped with only a wood-burning cast-iron stove, Vincent learned over the years how to tuck berries into pies, prepare meats sourced from neighboring farms, and eventually produce elaborate meals for his entire family.
Driven by his passion for French family-style cuisine, he traveled to Paris before a longing for experiences abroad tugged him across the pond and into the arms of the Windy City in 2004. The following year he opened Cook Au Vin, where he leads three-hour BYOB cooking classes centered around classic techniques and organic ingredients. Patrons may also enlist the Cook Au Vin team to cater special events, or swing by Colombet's Logan Square bakery, La Boulangerie, for butter-infused inhalations, freshly made crepes, and crusty baguettes.
Many cooks would insist that a trusted recipe is the foundation of a good meal, but at Cooking Fools, it’s the first thing to go. Their cooking classes unshackle pupils from their cookbooks and encourage creativity in the kitchen. Their chefs exercise the same artistic license over the meals they assemble for catering, takeout, and cooking parties. Adhering to three main principles—quality ingredients, good style, and common sense—the staff crafts healthy versions of typical to-go food, decreasing saturated fats but never flavor. Many of their entrees radiate global inspiration, and are arranged in a modern, artistic way that doesn’t outshine flavors. In keeping with the contemporary theme, the servers who circulate the understated dishes at catered events are young, trendy, and rarely whip out their license to prove that they’re young and trendy.