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Published: Sunday, 1/20/2008

Area food operations have full class schedules as kitchen serves as classroom

Students decorate cakes at Cakes Art Supplies. Students decorate cakes at Cakes Art Supplies.

Cooking classes can be a dining experience.

Suzette Biela of Ida, Mich.. has been attending cooking classes at Evans Street Station restaurant in Tecumseh, Mich., since "they started giving them," she says. "Sometimes I bring a group of friends with me."

Among her most recent favorites was the class on appetizers last November. "The chef (Alan Merhar) probably did 15 different recipes," she says. "I made three or four of them since and have had rave reviews." She's made the shrimp wonton, savory profiteroles, tomato bruschetta, and mushroom ragout. "He also did a sushi class a year ago that was great."

Her experience is an example of how ever-popular cooking classes are as likely to turn up in local restaurants, supermarkets, and specialty stores as they are in Toledo's two major cooking schools, Kitchen Tools and Skills in Perrysburg and Williams-Sonoma at Westfield Franklin Park mall.

Cake Arts Supplies instructor Carey Cramer, left, shows Michelle Fielder how to frost a cake. Cake Arts Supplies instructor Carey Cramer, left, shows Michelle Fielder how to frost a cake.
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Now that the holidays are over, the classes are gearing up. A few are being held this month, but most programs begin in February and March.

At the Evans Street Station, an open-exhibition kitchen with an upscale, comfortable dining area with heavy mahogany wood and a fieldstone fireplace lends itself to the classes, for which the restaurant is closed to the public, says general manager and co-owner Elizabeth Kennedy. At the Sunday classes, which are held about every six weeks, "We gather seats and have higher cocktail tables and seats. We hand out recipes. It's relaxed and open. People ask questions. There's discussion."

Classes are limited to 25 to 30 people and usually cost $50 per person.

Chef Merhar usually makes an appetizer, soup, entree, and dessert. For Jan. 13 he planned a Winter Midwestern Menu: Meat and Potatoes. Potato Chowder with bacon, chives, and Tabasco oil warmed the crowd up. Then came Chicken Pot Pie with puff pastry. The entree was Beef Tenderloin with Brussels sprouts and sweet potato au gratin. The finale was Mango Coriander Granita with a lime chip garnish.

Icing is piped onto a cake. Icing is piped onto a cake.

"The classes almost turn into a little party," says Ms. Kennedy. "Everybody is friendly. There's a lot of interaction with the guests."

The next class' theme will be Valentine's Weekend: Cooking for 2 at 5 p.m. Feb. 17. A wild- game class is being scheduled for March.

Other chefs and restaurants also are giving classes occasionally.

On Jan. 12, chef-owner Michael Bulkowski of Revolver in Findlay started a six-week cooking class at the restaurant. Taught on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., when the restaurant is closed, the $240 series specializes in knife skills and meat preparation and will progress to food and wine pairing.

The two major cooking schools in the Toledo area are Kitchen Tools and Skills in Perrysburg and Williams-Sonoma at Westfield Franklin Park.

At Kitchen Tools and Skills, classes will be held from February to June. Most are held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday evenings, but some are on Tuesdays. "It's a lovely evening out," says cooking class director Lina Barrera. "Come hungry, it's a full meal. You are provided with recipes so you can go home and make the dishes."

Classes are limited to 12. The store is closed during the class, but attendees can purchase equipment with a discount (except on food and small appliances). Classes are usually $35 each.

There's a wide range of topics; for example, Indian cuisine taught by Shanthi Venkat will be Feb. 18. The ever-popular Marty Kokotaylo will prepare "an elegant Elvis Presley dessert" during his March 29 class.

Christine Wilson, former owner of Gourmet Curiosities (it is now closed) will lead a two-part class on French cuisine April 23 and May 21.

The complete class list will be available Feb. 1.

At Williams-Sonoma at Westfield Franklin Park, Mr. Kokotaylo was scheduled to teach a Warming Winter Soups class yesterday. His next class is Bowl Game Party Saturday. The store has switched the classes from Sunday night to Saturday night. Classes are from 7 to 9 p.m. and cost $40. Class is limited to 20. Two classes per month will be held through April. Among the upcoming topics are A Romantic Dinner for Two on Feb. 9 and The Versatile Panini on April 12.

Dinner By Design at 1100 North McCord Rd., is a meal-assembly shop. "We don't teach classes, but we do help you assemble recipes," says Rachel Grup, managing partner. "You add the heat at home."

In December they tried a Kids in the Kitchen class with six children ages 4 to 7. The children learn to measure and other basic kitchen skills. "It was $45 for two entrees and $60 for three entrees," she says about the one-hour class. "The kids came trooping in with their step stools. The parents help. We used cooked proteins, simple measurements. They had a blast."

The next Kids in the Kitchen class will be 9:30 to 11 a.m. Saturday. The cooking lesson is presented with games and prizes, followed by a mini-session where each child makes entrees to take home with them. Menu choices include Chicken Enchilada Casserole, Old-Fashioned Chicken Pot Pie, and Triple Chocolate Pudding Cake. A parent must be present at all times while the child is in the kitchen.

In March and April, several Girl Scout troops have made reservations for classes. "These 10-and-11-year-olds will do more involved recipes," says Ms. Grup.

At Cake Arts Supplies at 2858 West Sylvania Ave., beginner cake decorating classes are in full swing Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The six-week classes will last until Feb. 11. Then the intermediate/advanced classes are held until the end of March.

Attendees "bring the cake. We show them how to level it, crumb it, and put the layers on," says owner Dorothy Bryan. "They work with different details, borders, scallops. In Week 5 we do fondant flowers." The class is $50, which includes the kit plus tips, spatula, and pastry bags. The next series starts after Easter. Classes are limited to 12 persons.

Chef Bill Kohloff at Walt Churchill's at 3320 Briarfield Blvd. in Maumee expects to have cooking classes beginning in March.

Georgeann Brown of un coup de main cooking school teaches European cooking classes in her Dundee, Mich., home. The next class, Cassoulets, is Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. followed by Soothing Soups on Jan. 30. Classes are about $65 each. For a complete class list and to register, visit www.georgeannbrown.com.

Contact Kathie Smith at:food@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.

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