The gastronomic gurus at the Auguste Escoffier School of the Culinary Arts channel the wisdom of their namesake to elucidate culinary traditions while employing locally sourced ingredients and recyclable materials wherever possible. Offered several times on the Home Cook class calendar, Knife Skills sharpen students' paring prowess with techniques that boost preparation efficiency, knowledge of classic and specialty cuts, and successful duels against swashbuckling carrots. Infuse holiday parties with meatless merriment using the skills acquired in Holiday Vegetarian Feast classes to prepare spiced pumpkin soufflés and winter-squash-and-parsnip purée. Culinary couples can cook up their own romantic seasonal feast during monthly Dinner Date classes, while gals unwind with chocolate and carbs during Girls Night Out sessions. Classic French Bistro classes navigate rich French culinary traditions, allowing students to assemble moules frites and croque madames and identify which parts of the Arc de Triomphe produce the most tender brisket.
Heart-shaped measuring cups. A frilly cherry-print apron. A five-minute brownie oven. Looking like Rachael Ray’s kitchen had been hit by a shrink ray, Foodie Kids’ store brims with tiny gadgets for playful cooking endeavors. The storefront is one facet of owner Barbara Beery’s mission to spark children’s passion for cooking and nutrition. To that end, Foodie Kids hosts culinary classes and cooking camps, where students follow wholesome and simple recipes to create fruit popsicles, chicken tenders, and guacamole. Kids can also attend Makery drop-in decorating sessions and pick out cookbooks to read to pet gingerbread men.
Make It Sweet is a baker’s dream. Across 7,000 square feet, more than 5,000 baking and decorating products line the shelves, from colorful sprinkles to instructional books on how to sprinkle sprinkles. Staffers help visitors find the supplies and tools they need to also craft beautiful cakes, cookies, and candies for special occasions of all kinds. Their resident instructors lead a variety of classes, and seasoned pros often visit to conduct special guest courses on topics such as sugar sculpture, fondant figures, and more.
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).
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.