At Grape Beginnings, passionate wine aficionado Frank D’Aponte splits his time between producing his own high-quality vintages and instructing others on how to do the same. Frank has a decade of winemaking experience under his belt; as a third-generation winemaker, grape juice runs through his veins. Frank has deepened his knowledge with extensive travel throughout the Napa and Sonoma valleys, studying under master winemakers such as James Allen of Sequoia Grove Vineyards. Novice vintners delve into every aspect of the process, including pressing fresh grapes from California, Chile, Italy, and Argentina, racking in oak barrels, and bottling with custom-made labels.
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 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.
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.
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.
Golden splatters of magma embellish the eatery's fire-red walls and draw eyes to the back of the dining room, where a 10-foot-high volcano pulses with flames. Well, it's actually a custom oven, but it houses real hot lava rocks designed to cook up to 10 large Mediterranean-inspired pies in two minutes flat.
Chefs top dough made fresh daily with eclectic ingredients ranging from grilled eggplant and sun-dried tomatoes to smoked gouda and meatballs. Sharing space inside the specialty oven are vulcanas, similar to calzones and jam-packed with meats, veggies, and gooey cheese. Other fare includes certified Angus beef burgers and pitawiches, all aptly washed down with chilly fountain drinks sourced from Magma Pizza & Pita's sister restaurant, located inside of a real underground igloo.