San Francisco, the home of sourdough and epicentre of local and organic produce, offers you the chance to become the West Coast’s exemplary dinnertime entertainer. If you’ve ever wanted to learn from the experts and see a culinary genius at work, consider attending one of the city’s top cooking schools. Qualified chefs will be there every step of the way, so you can finally create that piece de resistance and host a successful dinner party! We’ve reviewed five of the most popular places to flex your culinary muscles in San Francisco, so you can choose which one will lead you down the road to gastronomic mastery.
Hands on Gourmet
Both foodies and gourmands-in-training rave about this cooking school, located in the Portrero Hill neighborhood. The school can accommodate any group size and will cater to suit your needs. It allows you to choose from a set menu whose theme changes regulary, from French to Morroccan to Italian. Hands on also allows you to fine-tune your event according to dietary needs, wine pairings or how experienced you are. The event begins as would any dinner party- guests mingle and
socialise while sipping wines and sampling gourmet cheeses. The difference, however, is that all guests cook and contribute to the meal at communal preparation stations. And finally, no getting your hands dirty after the meal: the staff at HOG looks after all the cleaning up and other dirty work. This means no ominous pile of dishes or missing out on the post-meal banter. If you do miss out on anything, never fear: their photographer will capture your adventures in cooking on camera and share the photos.
www.handsongourmet.com; classes $POA;
(415) 553 8894
The Culinary Salon
In a smaller and more intimate setting, Joe the Chef offers classes for a maximum of up to 8 people in his very own “Culinary Salon” and art studio in the quiet yet conveniently located Duboce Triangle. If you want to build up to that extravagant banquet, progressive courses are offered; otherwise you can sign up on class-by-class basis. Like many other cooking schools, classes are themed. One such example is the “Stockholm to Marrakech” course- you’ll be taught how to cook your way down this edible route. Are you looking to impress someone the morning after? Try “The Breakfast Club” and learn how to master crepes and assemble a luscious fruit platter. As an added bonus, students rave about Joe’s deep knowledge of and passion for food, evident in his teaching style.
www.theculinarysalon.com; classes $95-$125; (415) 626 4379
Run in the chef’s own loft apartment in the food-centric South of Market district, Baking Arts is the place to go for oven creations. The scientist-by-training teacher will guide you to the discovery of your latent baking prowess, conducted in small groups of ten or less.
From the elegant and complicated soufflé to the stoic and sturdy bagel, Chef Richard will show you the way with his calming voice and personal attention. Classes are run on an individual basis and the teachings vary from month to month.
www.bakingarts.net; classes $80-$265; (415) 706 7112
Many a novice has been transformed into an avid home cooker by the engaging Chef Jordan. To ensure personal attention, groups of 6 to 10 people work together, focussing on in-season cooking. The upcoming “A Taste of Winter” class series, for example, includes seasonal seafood like Dungeness crab followed by warming chocolate and brioche bread pudding. Classes last anywhere from 3 to 5 hours and can be conducted in your own kitchen or in the location’s fully equipped professional one, in Portrero Hill.
www.jordanskitchensf.com; classes $POA; (415) 710 0761
Cook with James
After learning his cooking skills under the guidance of chefs from San Francisco to San Marino, James decided to turn his love of food into a culinary speakeasy run from his beautiful Victorian in the Haight-Ashbury area. James will arrange a dinner party centered around his speciality, regional Italian cooking, tweaking it according to your needs. Customers attest positively to his casual and open approach and many claim it feels more like having dinner with friends than a cooking class because of the relaxed but focused atmosphere. The crowds who congregate at this underground supper club hail from a variety of locales, cooking everything from Mediterranean seafood dinners to hearty Italian comfort food.
www.cookwithjames.com ; classes $75; (415) 325 3444
Cooking schools are a great alternative to the restaurant scene. Besides the fact that you mingle with the other customers (guests?), you play a hand in creating the feast as part of a team- a team driven by hunger is a team that works hard! And of course, you might just learn something.