Learn to Cook Together in New York City

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Soup Studios / Derek Edward Pfohl

When visiting New York City on a honeymoon or romantic getaway, give your cooking skills and taste buds a boost by taking a class at the De Gustibus Cooking School.

Hands-on and demonstration classes are offered at the school, located on the 8th-floor elevator bank in Macy’s Herald Square department store. Best of all, you don’t have to know a spatula from a slotted spoon to enjoy the hands-on classes or appreciate the exquisite food that follows the demonstrations.

Close Encounters of the Culinary Kind

Jacques Pepin, Wolfgang Puck and many of the top restaurant chefs in New York City have given classes here, notes owner and director Salvatore Rizzo. Rizzo, who was previously with the James Beard Foundation, has been operating the school since 2008.

He told us that many customers have been coming to the school for more than 20 years. “The school was founded by Arlene Feltman Sailhac in 1980, long before celebrity chef shows became popular on TV. She actually helped pioneer the concept of celebrity chef demonstrations,” says Rizzo.

Foodies will recognize names of acclaimed chefs who have been on DeGustibus' faculty roster. Not all of them are currently teaching.

To find out what's on the menu of classes in anticipation of your upcoming visit, check the Events Page on the DeGustibus website. If you know when you will be visiting, you may want to sign up for the Book a Chef series. Every season the cooking school offers the opportunity to take classes organized around specific themes. Simply love to cook? Consider purchasing a cookbook by one of the chefs that DeGustibus has a relationship with.

Our Weekend at Wheatleigh

De Gustibus also arranges classes at many of New York’s top restaurant kitchens and occasional cooking weekends such as the one my husband and I recently participated in at Wheatleigh, a resort in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts with a creative culinary team led by Chef Jeffrey Thompson.

Our Wheatleigh weekend began with a cocktail party with passed hors-d'oeuvres. The hosts made sure we all got to know each other and kept the conversation lively. Dining was also social and quite leisurely.

While the Manhattan classes attract singles and groups of friends as well as couples of all ages, at Wheatleigh our fellow guests were almost all mature married couples. Generally one or both were skilled cooks. Almost all had taken several De Gustibus classes before; several are true devotees. “The classes are a chance to learn new techniques, get to know top chefs and socialize with great people while dining on world-class food,” explained one participant.

Artistic Presentations

One of the true delights of a De Gustibus weekend is the creativity and artistry that goes into each dish. Every meal during our stay brought another array of unusual and pleasing flavors.

Among our favorites were two dishes we learned to make in our hands-on class: Muscovy duck served in both succulent slices and as rillettes (similar to paté) with wild rice croquette and rhubarb compote. For dessert, we mastered a rhubarb frangipane tart served with mandarin sorbet.

During class, one woman snap chatted several photos of her husband preparing food to prove to their daughter that he was actually cooking. “My wife loves to cook but I love these classes for the wonderful food and the chance to get to know these great chefs personally,” her husband told me, relating that a few weeks after taking a De Gustibus class at the 21 Club, they went for lunch and the chef came out to sit and speak with them. “Everyone wondered who we were!” he said.

Cooking Classes Around the World

Part of the fun and pleasure of taking a cooking class together on your vacation is that you can truly experience the flavor of a destination when you are taught by a local. These are two cooking classes that we have participated in Europe:

  • Paris Cooking Class with Paule Caillat: At the market Paule — whose English is perfect — shepherds her students from shop to shop, offering tips on what to look for at each stop. After the provisions are acquired in under an hour, she leads her group to the Metro. We take a short ride to her kitchen in the Marais district, don our supplied "Promenades Gourmandes" aprons, and the lesson begins.
  • Florence Cooking Class: Learn to make bruschetta, pappardelle with bolognese sauce and tiramisu for dessert from a local chef.

    To find out if there is a cooking class where you are heading, contact the local tourism office in advance of your visit.