Our group of six is well into our second bottle of Sauvignon Blanc by the time our Thai cooking class is scheduled to start. In the light-filled, glass-fronted space on Davis Street, surrounded by vintage Dayton scales, John Boos butcher blocks, and a menu handwritten on a butcher paper scroll, it feels like we are in a Parisian atelier.
Avid cooks all, we have made risotto at Sur La Table, souffles at Central Market, and even paella in Barcelona. And we have discovered two universal truths. First, despite our best intentions, we have rarely cooked from our carefully annotated recipes when we returned home. And second, our favorite classes always involve wine.
Chef Aaron Hubbard, who opened Garnish Kitchen in North Oak Cliff last October, seeks to address both points. In addition to serving wine and beer at the on-site restaurant, his focus is on technique over recipes. “We want to teach why over how,” he says. “A recipe might say how to do the thing, but it’s knowing why we do the how that makes you more comfortable and proficient. Say you don’t have a certain ingredient or pan—if you know the why, then you’re able to modify the how.”
Trained at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in New York, Hubbard has worked in restaurants most of his life. He met his wife, Tiffany, while running a catering company in Fort Worth. For the past decade, he taught at Le Cordon Bleu in Dallas. Then, last fall, he realized his dream and opened Garnish Kitchen, a combination cooking school and working restaurant.
When I ask him what he thinks of teaching tipsy amateurs, he laughs. “Students are in a career-track, 20-month program. There’s every excuse you can get from that kind of student. But the folks are here because they wanna be here. They’re excited about what we’re gonna do. That energy goes both ways, and that’s just wonderful.”
Our menu includes pad Thai, chicken satay, and beef street tacos. Hubbard and his co-instructor, Trina Nelson, run through the basics of flavor profiles and technique. When my skewers end up stuck to the grill, Hubbard helps me scrape them free, then garnishes them artfully with a drizzle of my custom peanut curry sauce. We sit down at the communal table to dine family style. Another bottle is poured, and we dig in. These skills, I’ll remember.
The Best Places To Toque Up
Central Market and Sur La Table aren’t the only cooking schools in town.
Fall classes: New Orleans Cooking, Flatbreads and Gelato
Class size: 10–16
Length: 3 hours
Booze: Wine and beer available for purchase by the glass or bottle
Fall classes: October Fest, Sushi Arigato, Pasta Perfecto
Class size: 14
Length: 3 hours
Booze: BYOB, pairings provided
Tre Wilcox Cooking Concepts
Fall classes: Former Top Chef contestant Tre Wilcox leads classes on Cooking Asian Style; Bacon, Pork, and Chicken; and Cooking With Steak and Game.
Class size: 12
Length: 3 hours
Cost: $250–$300 per couple
A Tasteful Place at the Dallas Arboretum
Fall classes: Asian Cooking Made Easy, Lightened Up Comfort Food, Farm to Fork Cooking
Class size: 20
Length: 2–3 hours
Cost: $60–$65 (discount for members)
Freebie: El Centro College offers free cooking demos at the Donald and Charlotte Test Pavilion every Monday at 11 am using produce from the Arboretum’s garden.
The Shed at Dallas Farmers Market
Free cooking demos: Chad Houser from Cafe Momentum, first Saturday of every month at 1 pm; Jeramie Robison from City Hall Bistro, second Saturday of every month at 10 am; Nick Walker from CBD Provisions and Jared Harms from Pyramid Restaurant & Bar, third Saturday of every month at 10 am
Fall classes: Summer Sausage, Brats, Jerky
Class size: 8
Length: Most Wednesdays, 7–9 pm
Booze: Stop at Scardello across the way in the Dallas Farmers Market for a glass of wine or beer.