Great food has always been a key part of living in Austin, but an influx of new people and new cultures has inspired many to learn new cooking techniques. Others are inspired by farmers’ markets and the farm-to-table trend. And, of course, there are always those who just need to learn the basics. The following formal and informal classes offer a little something for cooking students at all levels.
With classes for both kids and adults, Patricia’s Table focuses on making cooking fun. The Fun with Food Session 1 involves both kids and parents in learning the basic skills of whisking, chopping and mixing. The more intensive Master Chef Jr. class teaches kids about staple ingredients, cutting skills and basic improvisation skills in the kitchen. Adult classes range from Easy Weeknight Meals, with recipes such as oven-baked salmon and basil soup, to a Culinary Medicine Class, where you’ll learn to heal what ails you with food in a course taught by an integrative medical doctor. 1510 W. 35th Street Cutoff; (512) 434-9100
Focusing exclusively on plant-based foods, the Natural Epicurean offers both a professional track and public courses for everyday cooks. Most of the public courses consist of a single two- to three-hour session. In the Culinary Health for Your Heart class, you’ll learn to make healthful dishes such as cauliflower ceviche and sweet potato lasagna.
The Fermentation 101 class is also very popular. Students will learn the art and science of fermentation and why those little bacteria are so important for gut health. You’ll learn to make kimchi, miso and sauerkraut. 1700 South Lamar; 512-476-2276
3. Silver Whisk
Not a typical cooking school, Silver Whisk presents private events instead of public classes.
Silver Whisk can turn your next dinner party into an in-home cooking class. The company’s professional chefs will make an amazing meal for your guests while teaching you how to do it yourself next time. For the aspiring Iron Chefs out there, Silver Whisk also offers a competition-style event at its professional kitchen. Competitors are split into two teams and work together to make an entree and dessert that is judged by Silver Whisk’s chefs. If your cooking skills aren’t yet at competition level, hands-on cooking classes are also available. 3012 East Gonzales Street; (512) 826-8841
A boutique bed-and-breakfast that also offers cooking classes, Gateway Guesthouse holds sessions focused on creating entire meals (Florentine Feast, Greek Feast) and more specific topics (Knife Skills and Food Safety). Expect plenty of hands-on work, food sampling and camaraderie. Students receive a booklet to take home that includes all the recipes covered in class. 1001 East Riverside Drive; (512) 326-2646
Second only to Whole Foods as the most over-the-top grocery store in Austin, Central Market is also home to an excellent cooking school. Many of the instructors are high-profile chefs, cookbook authors and TV personalities.
Many of the courses follow the seasonal harvests, such as a class on making dishes with Hatch chiles held in conjunction with the end-of-summer Hatch Chile Fest. Other classes are more general, such as Sara Moulton’s How to Make Everything Taste Better. One of the more popular classes is Sushi 101, where you’ll learn the basics of making sushi rolls. 4001 North Lamar; (512) 458-3068
Primarily a retailer for high-end kitchen accessories, the store also offers a full schedule of cooking classes year-round. The classes cover cooking styles from around the world, including interior Mexican, Indian, Italian, French and Spanish. Most are demonstration-style classes, where you watch the teacher make the dish and then get to sample the food. A few classes do let you get your hands dirty, such as the hands-on pasta making class.
12918 Shops Parkway; (512) 266-5666
Aspiring bakers can hone their craft at Make It Sweet. Virtually every aspect of baking is covered in classes for both kids and adult. You can learn to make cupcakes, cake balls, tiered cakes, yeast bread and chocolate truffles. Several classes cover the aesthetics of baking, from decorating cookies to making edible lace. Kids’ classes include the Mini Cupcake Beach Party, Sweet Treats (candies, cookies and pretzels) and Cookie Baking & Decorating. 9070 Research Boulevard, Suite 203; (512) 371-3401.
8. Thai Fresh
If the smell of Thai food sends you over the moon, why not bring that sensory sensation into your own home? The in-home classes are a bit pricey, but it might be worth it if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t learn well in large groups. The in-home courses can accommodate from one to 15 people. However, most people opt for the more affordable public courses at the company’s commercial kitchen. In the Thai Favorites class, you’ll learn to make wonderfully aromatic coconut soup, pad Thai, red curry with chicken, and sticky rice and mango. Other classes focus on noodle dishes and can be modified to suit vegetarians. 909 West Mary Street; (512) 494-6436
The Sustainable Food Center operates farmers’ markets around Austin, and the organizations’ classes focus on making meals with locally sourced foods. You can learn everything from how to make Italian gelato to how to cure your own beef jerky. Other classes cover knife skills, curry dishes and growing culinary herbs. Every dollar you spend here also supports an array of community projects, including the Farm Direct program that helps get local farmers’ products into schools, restaurants and cafeterias around Austin. The Happy Kitchen program offers free cooking classes for underserved and low-income communities in the region. 2921 East 17th Street, Building C; (512) 236-0074
The Kitchen Underground offers cooking classes at locations all over town. The instructors include professional chefs, food bloggers and home cooks with particular skills. For some classes, you won’t even know where it’s being held until you sign up for the class. Most are in central Austin, though. A sampling of upcoming classes: homemade tortilla making, Indian spices and spreads, catfish and collard greens, and vegan barbecue.
11. Sur la Table
With cooking classes ranging from Flavors of the Greek Isles to Pizza on the Grill, Sur la Table can teach you the basics or turn you into a budding master chef. The store even offers hands-on cooking classes for couples (hands on the food, that is). Once you’ve learned a few new skills, you’ll probably want to buy some of the store’s gourmet cookware or kitchen gadgets. That’s probably all a part of the delicious master plan. 11800 Domain Boulevard, Suite 130; (512) 873-7179