Hands-on Cooking Classes in NYC
April 24, 2009 6:26 AM   Subscribe

Where can I find hands-on and *cheap* cooking classes in New York?

When I left my last job my coworkers, knowing that I'm a pretty avid amateur chef, chipped in to buy me a cooking class at the Astor Cooking Center. It was a hands-on pizza making class taught by professional pizza chef Mark Bello. He took us through every step of the process: prepping the yeast, mixing the dough, making the sauce, shaping the crust, topping it, baking it (and eating it). Each step he showed us exactly what to do, what could go wrong, how to fix it if it did, techniques for doing it even better, etc. Making good pizza from scratch in your home oven is pretty hard, as I know from previous experience. But by the end of the class I could reliably produce perfect thin crust pizza, something which my friends take advantage of repeatedly to this day.

I'd love to take more classes like this, but unfortunately Astor is pretty expensive. Classes start at around $150. Plus most of their classes center around wine tasting, something I've never really gotten into. Their only other class which would appeal to me is a pasta making workshop which is $175, and spots are generally sold out within a few days of it being posted anyway.

I've looked elsewhere for cooking classes, but haven't found anything that appeals to me. Many are much more expensive than I'm looking for (I wouldn't have ever taken the Astor one if it hadn't been a gift), not hands-on (i.e. you sit and listen to someone talk and demonstrate the recipe rather than actually doing it with them), or not something where you actually produce something.

I'm not interested in classes about knife skills, concepts of taste, the stations in a professional kitchen, basics of cooking, Q&A sessions with professional chefs, or classes about wine pairing or drink mixing.

My ideal class focuses on a particular dish or type of dish, and involves me spending a couple of hours working closely with a professional chef, learning everything there is to learn about how to perfectly prepare it, actually producing it in class alongside the chef with their guidance, and leaving with a newly perfected skill.

And I want to not pay more than, say, $100 per class, max.

Anyone have any suggestions for places I could find other classes like this in New York? Do they even exist?
posted by reticulatedspline to Food & Drink (4 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My wife and I were given a gift certificate to Rustico, and our experience pretty closely matched your description of an ideal class. It's a group class, and everyone contributes something to the meal based on their comfort level (some folks weren't comfortable with knives, so they tore bread for a peasant soup). We were pretty gung-ho and contributed to several dishes. At the end everyone sits down and shares the meal together.

We had a great time, and most of their classes seem to come in under your price requirement.
posted by schustafa at 6:43 AM on April 24, 2009

Disclaimer: Mark is a buddy of mine, and I've eaten a number of his tasty pizzas. It's cheaper to take his course directly from him - mention "pizzapal" and it's only $125.

I've also taken cooking classes at the Institute of Culinary Education, and they were about $100... it was fine, but nothing memorable. We were in a class of 20, and our group made only 2 dishes out of 8 (corn soup and tamales). So while we could eat all the food, we didn't get involved in the making of all of it - that made it less interesting in our eyes.
posted by nyc_consultant at 7:40 AM on April 24, 2009

Depending on the person, you could get cheaper private lessons from personal chefs.
posted by spec80 at 8:39 AM on April 24, 2009

The Brooklyn Kitchen in Williamsburg has relatively inexpensive classes. Many of them are things like knife skills, but others are focused on making specific foods.
posted by heliotrope at 10:06 AM on April 24, 2009

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