A Chef's Soirée
Fill up at one of these Madison-area cooking classes
Ken Monteleone of Fromagination. Photo by Martha Busse
Madisonians don’t just have a physical appetite for food—many also have a mental hunger for an education on how to cook. Here are several stores and restaurants eagerly complying.
All Through the House
This house has got a welcoming kitchen, staffed with seven to eight different instructors (including Madison Magazine’s “Dining In” columnist Nancy Lynch) ready to spice up any recipe. Each instructor designs the class to fit their forte and shares tips to make cooking easier and more enjoyable for their students. On average, two classes are offered each week, usually costing around $40. Classes commence in the store’s kitchen located in the lower level,
All Through the House, 160 E. Main St., Stoughton. 877-9403. shopthehouse.com
As the executive chef and co-proprietor of L’Etoile Tory Miller not only shares scrumptious cuisine with Madison residents, but also cooking tips. The classes are typically demonstrations, but audience participation and questions are highly encouraged. Ideas are generated by Miller and change seasonally, with each class featuring at least three courses. Students can expect to be greeted at the door with a copy of the recipes, giving them a chance to take notes on techniques and tips.
The best part about L’Etoile’s classes? “The chance to talk and interact with Tory and ask him questions. He’s fun and lively and I think people enjoy him performing. He loves to cook; he’s so passionate. You get the best of both worlds, a chance to interact and to enjoy his fabulous cooking,” says Lael Grigg of L’Etoile. Each class is $95 and covers wine pairings to complement the courses. Classes are held once or twice a month in Café Soleil, the first floor space of L’Etoile.
L’Etoile, 25 N. Pinckney St. 251-0500. Letoile-restaurant.com
Carr Valley Cheese
Another culinary fantasy can be fulfilled at Carr Valley Cheese in Sauk City. Although it’s a bit of a drive from Madison, the classes are well worth it. Carr Valley brings in chefs from across the state and country to share their specialties. The classes last anywhere from two to three hours and usually include an appetizer or salad along with a few main course dishes, for a total of four to six dishes. Depending on the chef, students might help the chef cook, and all are willing to reveal their recipes and welcome questions. Of course, each class features one of the store’s cheeses. Classes cost $45 and are capped at forty people.
Carr Valley Cheese, 807 Phillips Rd., Sauk City. (608)-643-3441. carrvalleycheese.com
’Tis the cooking season at Fromagination through November 15. Their “cheese-centric” classes are anything but cheesy and range from hands-on mozzarella making to how to pair cheeses with beverages to incorporating cheese into meals. Owner Ken Monteleone says the real theme is simply gathering those who have a passion and appreciation for the world of food, cheese and local producers. Classes cost anywhere from $25 to $100, depending on the theme of the individual class and are taught in the back of the store.
Fromagination, 12 S. Carroll St. 255-2430. fromagination.com
The Melting Pot
For those craving a melt-in-your-mouth meal, the Melting Pot offers monthly cooking classes. Each class features cheese, salad and chocolate courses chosen from the Melting Pot Cookbook. The class gives the public a little insight into how Melting Pot creates their unique flavors and dining experience. Since the Melting Pot chain does not have one specific head chef in each restaurant, classes are taught by experienced servers who prepare the dishes on a regular basis.
Classes are offered the first Thursday of every other month at 5:30 p.m., and are capped at forty to forty-five people, so don’t hesitate to sign up. At only $20 per person, it could be a cheap trade-off for new tricks.
The Melting Pot, 6818 Odana Rd. 833-5676. meltingpot.com
Orange Tree Imports
Orange Tree Imports has a novel approach to their cooking classes. Although the home-goods shop isn’t a restaurant, they “stole” ten chefs from top-rated restaurants in the Madison area to teach their classes. Most classes are demonstrations, although participation is allowed on occasion, and students usually end up with nearly an entire meal. All classes have themes, allowing the individual chefs to share their best talents—and secrets. Classes hold no more than ten people, so register sooner rather than later. The cooking school also offers knife skill classes, which are quite popular, according to cooking school director Gretchen Harrell.
(*Note: This fall’s class list was posted online August 9 and registration ended August 22. If there are still open spots, they will be filled on a first-come basis.)
Orange Tree Imports, 1721 Monroe St. 255-8211. Orangetreeimports.com
Vom Fass USA
Locals wandering into Vom Fass USA have seen the suggested recipe cards placed around the store, but for those who prefer an up close and personal cooking lesson, check out an instructional class. Each two-hour class includes an hour and fifteen minute demonstration and lecture including a brief overview of the history of the specific dishes or cuisine being prepared, along with a generous forty-five “minutes of truth” for students to try the food. Students usually receive copies of at least four recipes, but come prepared with a pen and notebook, as dishes can also be created on the fly.
Paul Tseng and Jacob Schenk are among the culinary-trained staff who lead the events, which are taught in the Whole Foods Community Kitchen at 3313 University Ave. As an added bonus, those who sign up for a future class while in attendance will receive a $5 discount on the $25 per person fee. Included in the fee is a small, reusable canvas gift bag and a sample of one of the products used. Each class is limited to twenty people, meaning classes generally fill up four to six weeks in advance, so call or make a reservation online in advance.
Vom Fass, 3236 University Ave. 204-0300. vomfassusa.com
Whole Foods Market
Gain a “whole” new perspective on cooking in the Whole Foods Market community room and cooking classroom at Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods offers not only classes for adults, but also for kids. Kid’s classes are organized in small groups of similarly aged children so skills can be developed. The classes have themes like back to school, snacks, or basic cooking skills and only cost $5–10, making it a great and inexpensive way to introduce healthy habits and build culinary skills. Adult classes use outside instructors and are also themed. Indian and Pakistani cooking classes are offered on a reoccurring basis. Adult classes are $25 and are restricted to 15–20 people per class.
Whole Foods Market, 3313 University Ave. 233-9566. wholefoodsmarket.com