When you take a cooking class, you want to do all your homework — and the extra credit. Lucky for you Philly is embracing its rep as a foodie town and is prepared to teach you the ways of kitchen, whether it’s your favorite restaurant opening its doors for a single session, or a school with ongoing courses. And of course there’s the prestigious COOK series, where guests such as Marc Vetri, Georges Perrier and dozens of other popular chefs have come to teach their personal tips and tricks of the trade.
With so many options, you could learn to cook just about anything, but you’ll gain more than just food smarts. At La Cucina at the Market — the market being Reading Terminal — you can discover how to make brunches, holiday foods, Italian feasts and gluten-free options. And you may learn better with a little help from other students. La Cucina’s proprietor, Anna Florio, sees people bonding and becoming friends over the work table. “Our most popular class is Date Night,” Florio says. “Usually people only know the person they came with. I’ll see tables pushed together and people getting friendly. Sometimes they exchange numbers at the end of the class.”
Holly Ricciardi, of the South Street pie bakery Magpie, is hoping to bring people together, too when she begins teaching monthly classes, starting today with a how-to on her Three Apple Pie. Don’t worry if you’re clueless when it comes to pie crusts; Magpie classes are intended for all skill levels. While other pie courses have you bake at home, Ricciardi insisted on baking the pies on site for better results. “Why wait to bake it at home? Hang out, have a coffee and chat with people,” she says.
Remember, the kitchen is a safe place. “There are things that are intimidating to make, and pie crust is one of them,” says Ricciardi. “When you’re with a group and someone who knows how to do something, you actually see them and understand better. That intimidation is gone.” And let’s not forget the best part of learning to cook in someone else’s kitchen: You don’t have to deal with cleanup.
“It’s cliche of me to say I’m living the dream, but I am,” says Florio of La Cucina. “It’s like having a dinner party all the time! I told that to someone recently and they said, ‘Well sure, but you don’t get to pick the guests.’ But over the years I’ve met so many interesting people and interacted with them on a profound level. People are very comfortable around a table.”