Whether pursuing a life as a professional cook or a behind-the-scenes mover in culinary arts and restaurant management, the students at JNA Institute of Culinary Arts have honed their craft with professionalism and skill for more than 20 years. Students learn real-world lessons in a demanding professional setting, from running a kitchen to pleasing food critics with menus sung in four-part harmony. JNA shows off the fruits of these labors at its onsite restaurant, where the food is both prepared and served by students. The restaurant boasts a seasonal menu, gracing plates with items that have ranged from housemade gelato to cornmeal-dusted scallops.
To help sugar artists of all skill levels take their desserts to new heights, Francesca Elmenshawy, owner of Francesca’s Cakery, joined accomplished cake designer Silvina Barboza to teach intensive baking courses. Though their 10- to 12-student classes range from Baking 101 to an intensive course held in Spanish, most of the lesson plans fall somewhere in the middle. Fondant classes, for instance, introduce the versatile cake-decorating and sculpting medium to cake decorators who prefer their art to be edible. A three-part series on gum-paste flowers targets lessons to specific skill levels, teaching beginners the basics of rolling and cutting material for the dessert flowers. The hands-on, accessible classes earned a mention on Food Babbles, a blog whose writer described the teacher as "a gracious hostess."
The Grape Escape intoxicates senses with interactive, winemaking courses that yield 12 bottles of wine over the course of four sittings. Each 60-minute sitting separately integrates the various stages of winemaking: crushing, pressing, racking, and bottling. During spring, crafty oenophiles gather and sift through scores of South American grapes shipped straight from Chile and Argentina. Classes commence upon choosing the type of fruits, barrels, and aging durations that will foster forthcoming fermentation. Crush sweet juices from well-measured mounds of nature's candy before reconvening about two weeks later to begin the pressing process. Work the wine press to extract elixirs and transfer them to your oak barrels of choice. After learning how to properly rack wines during the third sitting, burgeoning vino makers conclude courses with a bottling and custom-labeling session that curbs urges to conceal beverages in paper bags.
The Professional Bartenders Association equips students with the skills to mix drinks anywhere across the country, along with a nationally accepted certificate. Boasting more than 10 years of experience, instructors teach the basics of gin milling and where to tickle Tom Collins to make him cry delicious tears. The Professional Bartenders Association grants students lifetime job-placement assistance thanks to partnerships with nightclubs, restaurants, and pubs throughout the state. Certification courses shower students with 16 hours of training in a real bar setting, with lifetime access to refresher courses.
The trained instructors at Gourmand Cooking School believe in learning by doing, a principle on which their hands-on cooking classes are based. More than 30 classes cover concepts such as basic knife skills and rolling sushi, as well as specific multicourse meals for two that feature indulgences such as mushroom risotto, seared steak with herb butter, and crème brûlée. Each class size is kept small, with about 8–15 students, so that they can enjoy learning a new skill in an intimate and communal environment.