Cooks and Classes

Where to learn the culinary arts

BY THE TIME I was grown, women were more interested in cigarettes, contraceptives and careers than, for Pete’s sake, cooking. So who would have thought that-after years of pitying my poor mother, all flush-faced and frantic in the kitchen-I would suddenly get the unenlightened urge to express myself through food.

It’s frightening to think that only five years have passed since I left academia and that the weightiest question on my mind now is why my last loaf of bread failed to rise. More terrifying still is what caused me to change. It happened two years ago, on a Sunday, while making quiche for a man with whom I was only halfway in love. He ambled up to the kitchen counter as I was filling a prefabricated pie crust (you can see I’d gone to a lot of trouble), and after a few blurry moments I relocated myself all frumpled and lost in his arms. “You’re the first girlfriend I’ve had who’s cooked for me,” he said. And he said it so earnestly that the world folded in; suddenly his happiness was worth 10,000 quiches. The earth had moved.

I knew right then I was a goner. Such passion, I thought, over a ham and broccoli quiche. Suppose I’d made a gratin d’ecrevisses sur lit d’epinards.

There must be something to this cooking stuff. How sad. How terrible. How true.

Now, I don’t know that all this has anything to do with Nancy Reagan, Cuisinart or the escalating price of gas, but a lot of other people are getting interested in cooking, too. The owners of gourmet food boutiques are banking on this as a “trend.” Cynics are calling it a “fad.” And I’m regarding gourmet-mania as a healthy development for everyone except young unmarried women with careers. If I were addressing an auditorium full of those lost souls, I’d call the craze a “definite relapse that is not necessarily such a bad thing.”

In all the excitement, you may be feeling slightly confused about the cooking classes you’ve been hearing about. You may be thinking you need a guide to lead you through the gourmet maze, or you may just want to learn more about a specific cuisine.

I have a friend, a serious reader of everything from billboards to literary bilge, who insists that cooking classes are a total waste of time. She says cookbooks are the way to go. I say she is half wrong. A good, three-hour cooking class can inspire the world-weariest spirit, satisfy a grumbling tummy (I’m beginning to speak like a cooking teacher) and entertain you, too. It is much better than an evening of TV. And the classmates-they are a varied bunch. At one seminar, I met a woman from Tyler who drives to Dallas to have her hair hennaed. At another, I saw a woman who’d never eaten eggplant. And then there was the girl so violently allergic to certain sorts of shellfish….

But before we get overly involved with our principal characters (the local teachers who wield edible influences), let me mention two things that almost persuaded me to give this project up at the start.

First, I needed a food processor, and so will you. The “We Cook” school was the only establishment that offered words of reassurance to people without food processors. “A Cuisinart is not a necessity,” says Harriet Rubin. “It’s only a necessity when it comes to saving time.” Others believe a processor is among the most important kitchen accessories. Instructors Jill Herman and Nancy Parker wouldn’t want to teach without one. “If you don’t have a food processor,” Nancy Parker said as she blissfully loaded hers, “I feel sorry for you.” So be forewarned: A lot of terrific things can happen in class with the aid of a processor, and these dishes may be considerably more difficult to duplicate with more primitive equipment at home.

Second, all my spices have died. Kyra Effren was the first to break this news. Spices last six months after opening, and their little lives are even shorter if they’re not stored in the dark. Everything in my pantry -snuffed! I didn’t dare tell anyone that most of my spices are more than five years old.

So right away, before signing a check for the first cooking class, know that you’re putting yourself in the running for some sizable investments. And I was just beginning to feel rather full of myself for having recently purchased three Henckles knives.

Nancy Parker’s Cooking School. I suspect I enjoyed Nancy Parker’s class more than all the others because Parker is such a compelling character. She is an archetypal earth mother with a little Peggy Lee and Doris Day thrown in. She loves to cook, she loves to talk and she loves the fact that women fly into Greenville, Texas, from all over the Southwest hoping that some of her effervescent energy will bubble over onto them. Parker, who has studied at La Varenne, says she turns away as many prospective protégés as she takes in; I felt privileged to catch a single session. Assisted by Faye Lawson and place-setting designer Star Rae, she rattles through her early-American parlor and kitchen, whipping egg whites, flipping spatulas and talking non-stop, tossing out simplistic bits of womanly wisdom as she go-go-goes. It’s unmitigatedly, unabashedly corny. “I’m too old and won’t be doing this long enough to hold anything back,” she always says. She tells it all, and she cooks without wasting a gesture, right down to the way she directs the portable fans to cool her off. She is, of course, an excellent cook, but some people would consider her class menus quite ordinary. Recipes a bit on the conventional side are precisely the kinds of things she knows her students will use. But the recipes are hardly the pearls at Parker’s school; there’s a lot more to the exchange. What she emotes is an enviable kind of happiness, and as I glanced around the room, I realized that 1 was not the only one entranced by that. “Some of my students may never cook any of my things,” Parker says. “They come because they think it’s like therapy.”

Parker teaches three-day sessions for $150 during March and June each year in Greenville. She will be conducting two holiday lessons in Dallas this fall: one at Neiman-Marcus, another at Plate & Platter. 1-455-6723.

Kyra Effren. It is easy to be taken in by a crisp British accent, so perhaps it’s Kyra Effren’s voice that seduces one into thinking she is exceptionally smart. The course I took from her at Kitchen Witch was called “Incredible Vegetables,” and while some of the things she served were something less than that, I got the impression that she was trying to please the masses.

Kyra Effren was trained at the London Cordon Bleu and is a member of the Com-manderie des Cordon Bleus. She has been teaching for eight years and has developed a very helpful way of spontaneously throwing out useful information like “un-salted butter in the grocery store is always fresher,” or “cold water and salt will get rid of garlic and onion smells on your hands.” She also covers an enormous amount of information in a short period of time. Effren is one of the most prominent children’s instructors, and she schedules children’s seminars every June. From October 4 through November 8 she will be conducting basic cooking technique classes weekly. A holiday workshop is scheduled for November, followed by a three-week entertaining course to round out the year. One Saturday workshop for children is also slated. 387-1193.

Rosanne Greene. By the time I came rolling around, Rosanne Greene had wound up her spring session, but I left her kitchen convinced she is a very fine teacher indeed. She has studied at La Varenne and L’Academie de Cuisine, and belongs to the International Association of Cooking Schools, a society she assists as a public relations committee member alongside Julia Child. Her specialties are more diverse than some teachers’; she claims interest in Italian, Mexican, Greek, French and American cuisine. Through the association, she has met a number of restaurateurs and commercial chefs, two of whom will be visiting Dallas to cook at her school. Francois Dionot, the owner of L’Academie de Cuisine, will teach two classes November 9,10 and 11. Greene will conduct French regional cooking classes through September and will conduct a special seminar on stocks and sauces September 29. In October, she hopes to set up separate classes in filo pastry and chocolate desserts. 948-6006.

Dolores Snyder. I learned oysters Bien-ville, eggs Sardou and crêpes Fitzgerald from Dolores Snyder and found that she has a scientific, exacting edge that sets her apart from some of the more flamboyant teachers. She is very cool, organized and precise in a way that initially misleads one into thinking she’s unemotional about food. One advantage she has is that she’s well-acquainted with people in the restaurant community. Through those sources, good things can be engineered. Her brain is a warehouse for all kinds of cooking information, which she seems to distribute only when she sees that a student really needs it. She studied in England, France, Italy and Hong Kong and began teaching in Dallas in 1976. She will be holding a basic French I course at two different times during October at The Cook’s Store. She is partial to French regional cooking and this fall will feature a series on Normandy cuisine at Country Cupboard. Advanced courses will also be conducted on a smaller seminar basis. 258-6288.

Jill Herman’s Mostly French Cooking School. A much younger crowd is attracted to Jill Herman’s fine seminars because she is younger than most cooking teachers and newer at the game. She is also more esoteric about ingredients and procedures, and her classes are almost totally organized around exercises and class participation. She is a little vague, but that can work to benefit a serious student, whose creed throughout the seminar might well be “use what’s fresh and do what you want with it.” There is a certain sophistication to Herman’s approach. In 1976, she coauthored The Mostly French Food Processor Cookbook, which was later favorably spotlighted by The New YorK Times. She will be teaching a $130 basic French cooking course on Tuesday nights and Wednesday mornings for the first three weeks of September. A single seminar on patés and sausages will be offered in early November, followed by a full participation duck dinner class. Her basic course will be repeated in December. Classes are limited to six students each. 692-9045.

Catherine Liu. Several fully capable teachers in town don’t bother to teach Chinese cuisine because Catherine Liu is “it” when it comes to wok work. I’ve seen her make wonderful moo shi pork and a banquet chicken dish that came floating in the most delectable mushroom sauce I’ve ever sampled. She has a kind manner and whimsical voice that sounds like Oriental music. Her eye for presentation and form is keen. On one occasion, she took a whole cone-shaped bamboo shoot out of its can and asked the class: “Have you seen bamboo shoot? Isn’t that nice looking? Very cute.” She will be teaching a few classes entitled “Cooking for Two” in late August. Later this fall, she’ll give reasonably priced classes in dim sum, Hunan, Szechuan and Cantonese specialties. 931-9318 or 235-3221 or write to ask for mailer: 7211 Mc-Kamy, Dallas, 75248.

Cooking with Amber. Here you’ll find the best out-of-the-home facilities including comfortable chairs elevated to bar-stool height so you can see. Owner Amber Robinson got into the cooking-school business informally when she began to give lessons to her daughter’s sorority friends. In recent years, she and her assistant, Kristine Ackerman, have attracted crowds to the remodeled coffee shop with their seminars on French and Italian cuisine. This year the emphasis will be upon three internationally respected guest teachers. On September 20, 21 and 22, Jacques Pepin will give two classes a day. The series will cost $275; individual classes are $100. On October 19, 29 and 31, Mary Gubser will teach individual seminars. On November 1, 2 and 3, Giuliano Bugialli will teach morning and evening classes in Italian cuisine. The three classes are $250 or $90 apiece. Call 363-3687 to be placed on a mailing list or stop by the shop at 6211 W. Northwest Highway, Suite C-120, Dallas, 75225, to see some of the ordinarily hard-to-get oils, vinegars and kitchen accessories.

The French Apron School of Cooking. Owners Renie Steves and Louise Lamens-dorf received national attention when Bon Appetit magazine ran an eight-page spread about their work last October. They’re going into their fourth year of business as the best school in Fort Worth and they have scheduled a well-regarded French guest teacher, Madeleine Kam-man, October 1 and 2. Regular fall classes will begin on Tuesday nights, Wednesdays and Thursdays and will run for four weeks. French Menu II will begin the week of September 14. American regional cuisine classes will start the week of October 19. Italian Menu I will be offered the week of February 1. $200 per course; 12 students per class. Three pairs of wine tastings are held every year. (817) 732-4758.

We Cook. The approach is appealing to those who don’t have a whole lot of time to slave in the kitchen; convenience foods and good shortcut techniques are offered as alternatives. The class atmosphere is homey, relaxed and strictly demonstration – there is no room for students to participate in dish preparation. Dean Kades-ky, Jane Jenevein and Harriet Rubin will conduct their second series of continental cuisine classes sometime this fall. All three have been cooking and entertaining at home tor years, and it just recently occurred to them that a lot of young women in their 20s don’t know the slightest thing about food – besides how to eat it. 827-9205.

SEVERAL GOURMET-kitchenware supply stores hold demonstrations and seminars weekday evenings. While the facilities are sometimes difficult to work with and seating is almost always uncomfortable and cramped, fine teachers like Dolores Snyder, Kyra Effren, Catherine Liu, Gladys Howard and former French Room chef Roland Passot give excellent seminars that are usually inexpensive.

The Cook’s Store. Owner Bill Sutherland has planned a full schedule of classes that varies from the elaborate French to plain down-home. In August and September, Roland Passot will prepare lobster salad with mango, sweetbreads with sorrel, various sorbets, braised turbot with oysters and roast quail. Sutherland will teach souffles late in the summer. Sam Higgins will instruct a course in Tex-Mex cuisine. 833 East Lamar, Arlington. 261-3656 for mailer.

Kitchen Witch. Courses in French, Italian, Chinese and Mexican cuisines will be offered this fall as well as classes in microwave cooking and bread baking. 6959 Arapaho Road. 386-5538 for mailer.

The Epicurean. 1 took a fantastic course in Thai cooking here last spring. Fall offerings include puff pastry, croissants, Northern Italian cuisine, souffles and omelets, Tex-Mex, cake decorating, seafood and hors d’oeuvres. 811 North Central Expressway, Suite 1070, Collin Creek Mall on the Village Walk, Piano. 422-5880 or 422-2753 for mailer.

The Country Cupboard. Ice cream classes, breakfast breads and several Chinese courses were included in the schedule last spring. 5301 Belt Line Road, Suite 2060, Dallas 75240. 386-5498 for mailer.

Plate & Platter. Courses are offered on Saturday mornings. 4401 Lovers Lane. 521-9980.

Goodies from Goodman. This is the only place in town that offers free demonstrations twice a day, five days a week. Everyone involved gets a fairly nice serving of the day’s special. Jimmy Murrah’s well-thought-out lessons last about 45 minutes. An excellent opportunity if you’re in the neighborhood Tuesday through Saturday at 11 a.m. or 2 p.m. 12102 Inwood Road. 387-4804.

Williams-Sonoma. This store has shifted away from in-store lessons and demonstrations, but when Dallas’ second Williams-Sonoma opens in the Galleria this October, Anton Mosimann from the Dorchester Hotel in London will teach a seminar. 8405 Pickwick Lane. 696-0348.

COMMUNITY COLLEGES also offer reasonably priced cooking classes of all sorts. Here’s what will be featured this fall.

Brookhaven College. Microwave cooking, desserts as gifts, chocolate making, candy making, Indian cooking, beer and wine cookery, cake decorating, food-processor cookery. 746-5115.

Cedar Valley College. Microwave, holiday cooking, beginning and intermediate cake decorating, gourmet cooking for busy people, crepes, quiches and omelets, children’s cooking -ages 4 and 5, and 6 through 8. 746-4800.

Eastfield College. Food writer Cynthia Jubera will be teaching special seminars: hot and cold souffles, sausage-making and patés. Other courses in French cuisine, microwave, cake decorating and Chinese cooking for the connoisseur will also be offered. 746-3113.

El Centro College. Vegetarian cooking from the Indian tradition, Greek and Middle-Eastern cuisine. Credit courses are available for people who want to pursue cooking professionally. 746-2191.

Northlake College. Candy workshop, Christmas cookie workshop, creative cooking using mixes and convenience foods, pasta workshop, petits fours, vegetarian Indian cooking, wok cookery, food processor cookery. 659-5200.

Richland College. Morning News FoodEditor Dotty Griffith will be teachingcourses on Dallas ethnic foods and homecooking classes for men. The fall calendarwill also include classes in Chinese andFrench cuisine and undiscovered winesand cheeses. 746-4534.


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