Cooking with the pros in Metro Detroit
By Jeanine Matlow
If you’re craving a creative outlet that yields fabulous food, look no further than these local venues with culinary programs as varied as the fare that is prepared. Testing new recipes lets you connect with others while learning new techniques to try at home.
A Taste of Europe
Cooking is making a comeback. Just ask Dawn Bause of Cooking with Dawn, Commerce Township, MI, who offers classes, tours and tastings at various locations with a focus on corporate dinners, interactive cooking parties and culinary tours to Italy.
“The death of the dinner hour in the 1970s changed our culture dramatically,” Bause says. “People are embracing getting back in the kitchen and eating healthy foods.
“My whole focus is the pleasure of the table. Traveling and living in Europe for five years, my business evolved and I wrote a cookbook,” says Bause, who especially enjoys teaching in a home environment, including her own. “For corporate clients, a house is more relaxed for a class or a team-building event.”
Larger events take place at Trevarrow, Inc., in Auburn Hills, MI, says Bause, whose specialty is Mediterranean food made with premium ingredients.
“People mark special occasions with cooking parties. With couples, the men often wear the aprons while the women drink wine and laugh at them, she says.
During corporate team-building events, “Shy people who are always in the background come out of their shells and people from different departments and levels get to see each other in a casual setting and have fun,” says Bause.
Men often request classes, especially those who have recently gone through a divorce.
“For professionals, cooking is a good way to relax and destress. It’s a way to be creative.” Bause is motivated by the results. “My goal is to touch everyone and have them walk away saying that they like cooking and it’s not as hard as they thought.” cookingwithdawn.com
A broad mix of events are hosted throughout Metro Detroit by Lisa Howard, cookbook author, culinary speaker, recipe developer and cooking instructor, including hands-on classes, presentations and corporate lunch-and-learns.
“I can come to a location and set up a no-cook cooking class. You don’t have to do it to get it,” she says. “For employee wellness, I might talk about food upgrades. When you make quick meals, you pay for convenience. You’ll pay extra for shredded Brussels sprouts and precooked lentils, but you can just dump them in a bowl and they’re not processed, just cooked. You can actually make healthy fast food.”
Other presentations may feature a beverage bar where participants can mix their own drinks with natural sweeteners like maple syrup or teaching people how to read food labels. Her talk on gluten-free foods is among the most popular.
Howard enjoys sharing myth busters, like the fact that it can actually cost less to eat better, and she doesn’t believe in counting calories. Instead she stays focused on quality. Come January, many are thinking healthy thoughts to go along with their New Year’s resolutions and she knows how to get the ball rolling.
“I love doing ethnic food,” says Howard, who teaches a class about fun and easy street food from around the world based on her travels. “I’ve been there, done that and tasted it.”
In January, she will be a guest chef at Great Lakes Culinary Center in Southfield, MI, for “Heat up your Winter,” a night of Latin food and dance where guests will learn to make ensalada Latina with chimichurri dressing and dips like pico de gallo and guacamol with a twist before the classroom turns into a dance school to learn some smooth bachata moves.. theculturedcook.com
Cooking gets a boost in a well-equipped kitchen, according to the experts. Trevarrow, Inc., in Auburn Hills, MI, distributor for upscale built-in appliances like Sub-Zero, Wolf, Asko, Best, Franke and Scotsman, offers a unique venue for culinary programs, product presentations and demonstrations. “In our showroom, people can see appliances in proper settings,” says Ginger Trevarrow, director of showroom and gallery events, of their dream kitchen vignettes.
On the second Saturday of each month, they host a free product presentation for people to make educated decisions about which appliances best fit their cooking styles.
“We have four live kitchens here for cooking demos on equipment,” says Trevarrow.
The Culinary Auditorium can seat 85 in deluxe leather chairs, making it the perfect spot for culinary and other training. Culinary training happens on the third Thursday of each month.
“We bring in certified chefs from restaurants, country clubs and culinary schools for a four-hour live demonstration with full samples. We want chefs to challenge us, but show something that’s doable at home,” she says.
Like their other offerings, the monthly Cuisine de Jour is not hands-on.
“We found that attendees want to learn, write down everything and ask questions,” says Trevarrow. The majority are “lecture, demonstrate, taste” style presentations.
Demonstrations include some of the latest products like the new convection steam ovens from Wolf that heat in multiple ways.
“When the rice from last night’s Chinese food has turned to gravel, the Wolf can make the food taste like it did the night before,” Trevarrow says.
Their flexible space can be rented for fundraisers and events. Classes include everything from perfecting grilling skills to cooking with a pizza oven, with topics like Down on the Farm with a focus on local food, French cuisine, smokehouse entertaining, wild game and Thai fusion.
“We vary topics and we try to stay seasonal or just ahead of the season,” says Trevarrow.
With so much to offer, they seem to be ahead of the curve indeed. trevarrowinc.com
Stir Things Up
There’s a whole lot happening in Royal Oak, MI — and Holiday Market’s cooking school, Mirepoix, is no exception. As director Eric Blotkamp explains, the hot spot teaches people how to cook like the pros in order to be successful in their own kitchens. They share tips that make it easy to follow recipes, like gathering ingredients in advance.
“When it’s all in front of you in measuring cups, it’s a little more streamlined,” says Blotkamp.
In addition to public and private cooking classes, the unique space can be rented for events like a recent 50th anniversary party for 70 where the hosts opted to have Holiday Market do the catering instead of having their guests participate.
“The chefs actually cook in the room, so you get all the nice smells and you can engage with the chefs,” says Blotkamp, who suggests tastings for everything from wine to chocolate or whiskey for those not interested in cooking.
One of their most popular classes teaches knife skills.
“We show them all the knives an average chef will have. Each has its own purpose; one is good for cutting bread and another for shucking oysters. You can’t shuck an oyster with a bread knife or you could end up in the hospital,” he says.
Participants practice on foods that pair well together, like leeks and potatoes.
“They make something from the ingredients, like a potato leek soup,” he says. Chicken and peppers chosen for different dicing techniques can end up as fajitas. “It all comes together,” he says.
Make and Take Pasta is especially tempting during the fall and winter months. Everyone makes pasta from scratch and gets a batch to take home. Meat-themed classes, which often appeal to men, include a class that shows how to smoke meats without a smoker. Grilling and braising are other popular options. Class sizes are small and sell out quickly.
Look for date nights around Valentine’s Day with a discounted price for couples. Themes include everything from European Delights to Latin American and Asian foods. All classes are hands-on.
“It’s a professional kitchen with top-notch equipment, including Viking appliances,” Blotkamp says. “People want to try everything out, like really heavy stockpots. It’s part of the fun to try the real things that chefs use. It’s like playing with little toys at home and then you get to operate a bulldozer.” mirepoixcookingschool.com
Hooked on Cooking
In downtown Northville, MI, you’ll find Taste: A Cook’s Place, where culinary instructor Mary Spencer offers a variety of cooking classes.
“We like to give tips, techniques and recipe ideas for different menus,” she says. “People can either enjoy them as a meal or they can come learn and make them at home for their family.”
Though Spencer does demos at other locations, in Northville her classes range from Bacon & Bourbon to Cooking with Seafood.
“We run the gamut and cover different ethnicities and techniques like braising, roasting and grilling. You name it, we’ve done it,” she says. “Whether you like to cook or just sit and watch and eat, it’s fun either way.”
She offers a full meal and people can bring their own wine. This winter, look for soups, stews and classes that share recipes from historic Detroit eateries. Most are not hands-on classes.
Regardless of skill, Spencer shows there’s hope for everyone.
“I got married and I couldn’t cook, so I took classes over 30 years ago. I got hooked on it and I went home and practiced what I learned,” she says. “Fifteen years ago, I started teaching and I could barely boil water. It sparked an interest in me and I loved cooking and pursued it as my career.” tasteacooksplace.net