Forgive me for dragging out the clichéd Chinese proverb, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." But I do find it somewhat apropos as an introduction to what follows.
See, those restaurant gift certificates you've been planning to give this year will likely only cover a single meal. A certificate to a cooking class, however, will impart basic knowledge to be applied to an abundance of future meals at home. Achieving the giver's most lofty goal, your gift will be timeless instead of lost to memory the moment a credit card slip is signed and a burp escapes some lips. (Not trying to steal your thunder, restaurants — you'll still get your hordes of last-minute shoppers. So share the love.)
Fully aware that you would have by now enrolled at Pikes Peak Community College or Paragon Culinary School if you were super-serious about entering the restaurant world, the following compilation is more intended to help enrich your skills at home.
We tried to be relatively comprehensive in our data-gathering, but elected not to include a list of the many restaurants that offer periodic cooking classes, so check with your favorite eatery directly. If we missed a key culinary instruction outfit, e-mail us at email@example.com, or post a comment to this feature at csindy.com.
This being a food-centric gathering, we also passed over local drink education classes, such as Colorado State University-Pueblo's intensive Zymurgy Institute 6.0, which will teach beer-making from February to July in collaboration with Pikes Peak Brewing Co. (Like how smoothly I worked that in?)
One last note: Under each business description, the class mentioned as "coming up" is not necessarily the only class on the schedule, or even the next one. It's just one that jumped out as being unique, or of great potential interest to Indy readers.
With that: Remember to keep your knives sharp, and that "Yes chef!" is the appropriate retort when being told what to do in someone else's kitchen. I wish you fruitful studies.
• Choose from demonstrations and tastings, "intensive hands-on" classes, and one-on-one classes at Conscious Table (26 E. Kiowa St., conscioustable.net), which places an emphasis on sustainable food practices. Some courses are designed for singles and others for couples, or children, or other categories. Customizing is also available. Instruction is at the restaurant, with chefs Brent Beavers, Dave Cottrill and Aaron Retka.
Coming up: "The Chemistry of Cooking," $39
• Attend "Culinary Boot Camp" with the Picnic Basket (1701-A S. Eighth St., pbcatering.com), whose weekly calendar already extends into May 2012 on its website. Junior chef (ages 8 to 13), apprentice chef (14 to 17) and private classes are available, each taught by one of the team of in-house experts.
Coming up: "Cake Shoppe 101," $159, two-part
• Garden of the Gods Gourmet (2528 W. Cucharras St., godsgourmet.net) chefs Amy Pontius and Larissa Warner head up monthly cooking series, though single sessions inside those series are available. They boast small class sizes for all skill levels; the current schedule, taught inside their kitchen, extends into April 2012.
Coming up: "Ethnic Vegetarian Series," $150, four-part
• Tinta de Toro (tintadetoro.net) has a wide course offering from owner Angela Valencia, who as of January will teach out of Gotta Love It! Kitchen (2521 W. Colorado Ave.). Saturday classes, from knife skills to high-altitude pastry, are limited to six. Home instruction is also offered.
Coming up: "Holiday Appetizers," $65
• Find a range of classes, limited to eight, taught by a variety of guest local chefs such as Tinta de Toro's Valencia and Heather Mitchell of Change (her personal chef and consulting business) at the Chefs Outlet Store (5070 Centennial Blvd., chefscatalog.com; schedule at bit.ly/aQQguV). Culinary specialist Kathleen Weintraub says the classes are about showcasing the chefs, not about selling kitchen gadgets. But, hey, when it comes time to splurge on a fancy pepper grinder or cheese grater, you'll know where to go.
Coming up: "Chinese Cooking From Beginning to End," $150, four-part
• For more of home-economics-style classes, or "homesteading classes" as instructor Bonnie Simon calls them, check out Chickens in the Kitchen classes (hungrychickenhomestead.com), once again taught out of Gotta Love It! Kitchen. Simon calls the classes more utilitarian than fancy, integrating ways to save money and imparting a foundational understanding of how to not just prepare, but make food — "how chemistry works."
Coming up: "Fermentation Series: Apple Cider Vinegar, Yogurt and Sauerkraut," $75, three-part
• Also along the homesteading model, The Goat Cheese Lady (thegoatcheeselady.com), Lindsey Aparicio, teaches five, four-person goat cheese making classes each month at her farm/house. Students first milk the goats, then learn to make a soft goat cheese, mozzarella and ricotta as a prerequisite to a hard-cheese-making class. Also offered: instruction in making bread, soap and lotion, and raising chickens.
Coming up: "The Goat Cheese Making Class," $75