I’m 42 and I’ve never made Thai food. I aim to fix that and to get a date night out of Patrick in the process.
7643 Girard Avenue, La Jolla
“Sur La Table is the largest unaccredited cooking school in the country,” said Gabriel Ferguson, resident chef at Sur La Table La Jolla. “We offer recreational cooking classes that run two to two-and-a-half hours, covering all types of food from around the world. Personally, I teach four to five classes a week, focusing primarily on world cuisines like Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Moroccan, Latin, Spanish, and French.”
The most popular classes are on Friday and Saturday nights, he said. “We call them ‘date-night classes,’ and they have a theme. We have an upcoming ‘Sizzling Summer Grilling’ class with four courses: starter, side, main, and dessert. All the courses are hands-on: the guests make the food and we coach them and teach them techniques. Then everyone gets a generous taste of the dishes. The ingredients are portioned out ahead of time, but all the dicing, preparation, and assembly of dishes is done during class.”
Everything in the Summer Grilling class is made using the grill. “We start with grilled bread with a mint-pea purée and radishes and pecorino shavings. Next is a grilled fingerling potato salad with creamy herbal dressing. The main dish is pork-tenderloin skewers seasoned with smoked paprika and pimento. Then, for dessert, we have grilled bananas Foster. We grill the bananas, put them in a large frying pan, and flambé them with dark rum.” Ingredients are local and organic when possible.
Classes generally consist of 8 to 10 people, with a maximum of 16, working in teams. Cost is $45–$85, depending, and the tone of the class can vary as well. “We take a survey at the beginning, seeing what people want to get out of it.... Either way, we encourage questions and interaction.”
July classes include “‘Cool Summer Desserts,’ which involves making ice cream sandwiches. We also have ‘Spectacular Summer Pies’ — mixed berry, plum, peach, or Key lime — and ‘Summer in Tuscany.’”
4048 30th Street, North Park
Peter Calley, studio manager at Hipcooks in North Park offers “hands-on cooking classes for everyday ordinary people. Everyone is encouraged to participate; you are very much involved in the process. Classes usually involve one instructor and 14 students. It ends with a dinner party where you eat the food you made, paired with wine, beer, or cocktails, depending. Then we email you all the recipes the next day.”
Hipcooks recently conducted a Thai class that made eight dishes over three hours. “We made green and red curry from scratch, pad Thai with tofu, and a Thai sticky rice.” Some classes include a focus on knife skills, but not all — sometimes things get too busy. “Our ‘Endless Main Course Salads’ class, however, contains a solid hour of knifing skills. Other fun summer classes include the ‘Argentinean,’ where we grill steak and make chimichurri, the ‘Summer Salad,’ and the ‘Summertime Cocktail.’ I have a bartender come in and teach the cocktails, which we have paired with summer foods.”
Classes cost $60, which include ingredients (organic when possible), tools, supplies, and alcoholic beverages with dinner. Make reservations online.
7441 Girard Avenue, La Jolla
Bibi Kasrai of Harvard Cookin’ Girl in La Jolla teaches “home cooking from around the world, the way I learned it from real people. First from my grandma, and then from the grandmas of the world.”
Kasrai conducts general group cooking classes, private one-on-one date-night classes, and group events. The price varies, averaging around $65–$150 per person. And in the summer, she offers weeklong “Summer Camp Cooking Classes” for kids ages 5–13 for $250. “Each class has only 20 kids. We’ll have a theme for the week, something like Middle Eastern or tropical foods. The kids make three courses a day: appetizer, entrée, and dessert. Depending on age, they’ll learn different chopping techniques. It’s a bit like a Montessori program, with everybody learning together. On the last day of the week, they bring recipes from home and prepare them.”