Many people learn better when they feel comfortable, which is why Cucina Bambini designed their workspace to resemble a family kitchen instead of a clinical wall of burners and ovens. Black-and-white tiles cover the walls behind rustic cabinets and ceramic spice vessels. Instructors work with ingredients atop a central island to share their passion for cooking with students of all ages. Children can learn about culture as well as cuisine in Around the World classes that focus on recipes for tandoori chicken or Chinese siu mai dumplings. Adults may mix fresh pasta dough and form fettuccine or ravioli by hand or learn how to prepare sushi rice and use it in fresh rolls or nigiri. During date-night classes, couples prepare a four-course dinner that they will eventually devour or smear across each other's faces. All classes are BYOB.
Casablanca Market brings its collection of leather ottomans, hand-painted tables, Berber pillows, intricate mirrors, Moroccan tea glasses and tagines as they arrive stateside straight from the hands of Moroccan artisans, many of whom learned their skills as a family tradition. Hand-painted chairs and hand-woven carpets enliven rooms with vibrant colors and boast unique designs, unlike template rugs sewn by unimaginative robots. Shoppers can further their knowledge of Moroccan culture by attending the shop's cooking classes, which feature traditional recipes and ingredients. The market follows fair-trade practices to ensure artisans receive good compensation for their work and have their pay in hand before their goods ship overseas.
Les Petit Chefs Academy immerses kids ages 5–16 in the world of culinary art and promotes healthy eating habits through hands-on cooking classes. Each 60- to 90-minute class of 8–10 students tosses young noggins chewy nuggets of information about kitchen terminology and etiquette while filling hands with whisks, pans, and a deep respect for fire. In Kinder Chefs classes, 5- and 6-year-olds whip up healthy grub while honing motor skills. Instructors make basic table manners fun and begin to help solve mysteries of the food pyramid, such as why a tomato is a fruit rather than a vegetable or a juicy red fish. Junior Chefs classes for children of the 7- to 10-year-old persuasion chart a course through lessons designed to help students become more nutritionally savvy, and Senior Chefs helps the 11- to 16-year-old crowd learn to independently assemble entire meals.
Chowhound Cooking Classes is a one-woman culinary school run out of the home of Denise Ward, a worldly chef who lived throughout Europe and Asia, learning the regional dishes and blending them with her own Greek culinary roots. In the 3.5-hour Small Plates Santa Cruz class, students prepare a series of plates combining seasonal ingredients from local Monterey Bay purveyors. Amid the sears and jeers, Denise provides chefs with samples of Santa Cruz Mountains, and also permits them to enjoy a BYO bottle imported from their own homes or gas-station marts. Past hands-on classes have prepped plates including roasted halibut with walnut crust and tomato-pepper compote, flourless chocolate cake, and other tasty edibles that can be enjoyed as appetizers or portioned as main courses.
Both kids and adults can learn the art of cake decoration within the walls of Sugar 'n Spice. During classes, they fill bags with buttercream icing and pipe flowers, ruffles, and letters on the tops of cakes and cupcakes. Grown-ups can even learn to bake cakes and cake pops for upcoming birthdays, weddings, or mortgage closings. Those wanting to practice their skills at home can pick up the necessary accoutrements at the on-site shop.
When pursuing a culinary degree at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris isn't going to fit into your schedule, there's Sour Flour, a school dedicated solely to the preparation of one of San Francisco's most iconic foods: sourdough. Held in the Mission at La Victoria Bakery, its workshops draw aspiring home bakers fascinated by the serendipitous product of the Bay Area's ambient yeasts. Of course, Sour Flour breads also pop up in baskets at dozens of S.F. restaurants, and can be bought at most markets. But there's nothing more fulfilling than learning to bake your own delicious flatbread, then taking a starter home as a nucleus for loaves of chewy sourdough and excellent pizzas, indefinitely.