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.
At Young Chefs Academy’s long, stainless-steel counter, diminutive cooks press their heads together, working sunshine-hued dough through a pasta roller or peering at recipes. The bank of ovens spills the scents of cooking sweets, and gaggles of young adults meander into teen classes, ready to gain culinary skills or bother a librarian by listening to blenders at maximum volume. Some weeks, the school concentrates on the recipes of a particular chef, with past sessions focusing on the works of Julia Child and Jamie Oliver. As holidays approach, the recipes turn towards the pumpkin-infused confections that define Halloween or the slow-roasted baskets traditionally eaten on Easter.
Little Hands Art Studio's owner and teacher, Jessica Heisen, equips budding artisans with the supplies and know-how to explore their own creativity with delectable results. Heisen’s classes for adults, children, and intergenerational duos guide students as they bake cupcakes and top them with decorations such as fondant, mini marshmallows, frostings in piped pastry bags, and cookies hit by a shrink ray. Beyond the regular classes, Little Hands hosts private birthday parties for youngsters and, on Thursday and Sunday nights, grownups-only workshops, which encourage participants to bring their own wine and mingle as they create pastry art that reflects their inner muses’ 401(k)s. The studio also teaches children how to whip up afternoon snacks such as pastas and muffins, and conducts occasional beading and other art classes.
Philadelphia calls Madame Saito the Queen of Sushi, and it's easy to see why. Armed with formal culinary training from Le Cordon Bleu and the Ritz Escoffier in Paris and experience from apprenticeships under premier Tokyo sushi chefs, she has committed the last 26 years to spreading her love for Japanese culture and contemporary fusion cuisine. Although she leaves time in her schedule to manage Tokio Sushi Bar—her sushi restaurant with French culinary influences—, The HeadHouse Cafe, and to conduct an annual sushi-making competition, Madame Saito counts education as one of her highest priorities. She regularly commits her quadrilingual tongue to demystifying the art of sushi during classes for aspiring chefs and casual students alike, teaching them how to hand roll maki and slice fish into perfectly uniform dodecahedrons.
Foodies may know the internationally acclaimed Christina Pirello from her many cookbooks or from her cable TV shows, but Philadelphians can learn from this bubbly, healthy living expert live and in person. With Christina Cooks, Pirello furthers her mission to help people look and feel their best by cooking and eating natural, organic food. During single-session demo classes like "Honoring World Traditions", participants observe as Pirello cooks and provides tips and tricks for healthy eating. Hands-on workshops like "Breads and Tapenades" and "Pastry and Gelato" enable students to make their own dishes under Pirello's expert guidance. Three-day intensive study courses and seven-month comprehensive study programs give aspiring cooks an immersive experience that transforms their eating and cooking habits. While Christina Cooks is based in South Philadelphia, most classes are held at The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in West Philadelphia.
Run by Anna Maria Florio, the daughter of Italian immigrants, La Cucina at the Market imparts vital culinary arts to its students in intimate, informative classes. Students plunge their hands into the world of handmade pasta in Making Handmade Pasta: Easy as 1, 2, 3, which runs through the art and science of noodle and sauce. In classes of up to 15 people, pupils knead, roll, and slice pasta dough to infuse homemade Italian entrees with a personal touch. Nascent noodle artists acquire the art of lengthy fettuccine and broad pappardelle, and afterward pastacrafters will be able to construct an edible sculpture of a penguin in formalwear using bowtie-mimicking farfalle.