John Gizzi and Diann Greco, the American Wine Society?certified wine judges at Make Wine With Us, teach wine aficionados to create their own wines using grapes harvested in Californian and Chilean vineyards. At the start of the nine-month process (California grapes in the fall, Chile grapes in the spring), winemakers-to-be assemble with fellow enthusiasts to learn the intricacies of the trade. Patrons learn to crush and destem grapes in a machine called a crusher-destemmer, named after the device's favorite Germanic metal band. Following the crushing process, a hydraulic press forces juice into barrels, where it shall remain until the conclusion of its sweet, sweet metamorphosis.
At the end of the nine-month period, newly minted winemakers lean on family and friends to fill, cork, and custom-label the finished product. Budding vintners then tote home their vintages to share with family, friends, and robot butlers with built-in carafes.
Lambert Epperly, founder and owner of National Bartenders School, oversees the progress of each of his school's students, and provides individual advice and adjustments from their first class through graduation. His bartending gurus pass on their knowledge and techniques in a custom-designed cocktail-lounge classroom, engaging students in hands-on training behind a 40-foot-long, fully stocked bar. These experienced instructors lead a 40-hour certificate program and other seminars in both English and Spanish, tailoring class times around students' work and crime-fighting schedules. For extended courses, they provide a bartending textbook spanning more than 200 drink formulas and detailing elements of the craft, such as types of glassware and customer-service practices. Licensed by the New Jersey Department of Education, the school keeps tuition low and connects its students with free job-placement assistance in local watering holes.
During the day, Trattoria Bel Paese Cooking Academy cuts a humble figure with its deli area bursting with grilled panini, fresh salads, and Italian hero sandwiches. By night, though, Chef George Joseph draws a curtain around the glass counter and, according to Teresa Politano of the Star-Ledger, this "unassuming little Clark Kent of a restaurant" sheds its eyeglasses to fight villainous hunger with a menu of authentic Sicilian and Italian specialties. Chef Joseph puts his international training to use for each meal, calling upon skills learned in London, Melbourne, and Italy itself to craft heaping portions of pastas with sweet red sauce and veal with cream sauce. Working with gluten-free and organic ingredients upon request, he also crafts platters of hot chicken parmigiana and fresh black mussels with marinara as part of Trattoria Bel Paese's catering team. But Chef Joseph doesn't limit his gifts to his own kitchen. He also educates the next generation of chefs during cooking classes, which combine fresh ingredients and simple Italian preparations into delicious, memorable at-home meals.
Let's Play in Italian exposes kids, young adults, and adults to the culture and language of Italy through engaging programs that range from preschool activities to conversational Italian classes. Tykes up to 8 years old sing songs, tell stories, play games, and put on puppet shows and craft fairs during afterschool programs and Mommy & Me workshops, absorbing Italian vocabulary during their formative years before gray matter turns angsty and taciturn. Parents and kids alike can expand their linguistic repertoire with colorful books, CDs, and DVDs from an online bookstore.
After a debilitating car accident left Elyissia Wassung’s mother, Barbara, unable to commute to work, she stayed busy in the kitchen, devising her own homemade chocolates. Nine-year-old Elyissia would then load her mother’s sweets into a shopping cart and sell them door-to-door around the neighborhood, learning entrepreneurial skills that would last a lifetime. After leaving a telecom job as an adult, Elyissia returned to selling chocolates by founding 2 Chicks with Chocolate (the other chick being her mom), teaming up with master chocolatier Patrick Coston and lead chocolatier Stephanie Vazquez. The dessert innovators create diverse flavors, such as spiced pear and caramel ganache, s’mores, and hazelnut praline, from scratch with spices and sea salt. Customers can also create their own bars online without venturing into the store, building on a selection of chocolate bases and toppings that range from pistachios to gummy bears. The store also hosts chocolate classes and enlivens parties with chocolate fountains and chocolate tastings.
Good-Life Gourmet’s is a case study in multitasking. In its open kitchen, Chef Eric, an alum of the French Culinary Institute, routinely fries his signature falafel, teaches his cooking techniques to budding chefs, and prepares gourmet catering spreads. Although Chef Eric accomplishes a lot when he’s working, he maintains a fun, light-hearted environment, playing whimsical pranks on his coworkers, who include his three brothers and a team of local high-school students.
At Good-Life’s sandwich shop, a rotating menu gives palates the royal treatment with the aforementioned falafel, sliced-steak wraps, and butter-poached lobster rolls. Meanwhile, the kitchen’s BYOB cooking classes cover topics ranging from tapas to basic knife techniques, such as how to turn two meat cleavers into a huge pair of scissors. The culinary team tailors its catering feasts to each event, and pours its remaining creativity into the pop-up restaurant, Restaurant Maize, open occasionally in locations throughout the city.