I spent most of the past year working as a prep cook for a Boulder caterer. When I walked into the kitchen I was no rookie. I was a dining critic, cooking teacher and food expert. I had worked in Boulder restaurants, albeit 40 years ago. I figured: “I may be old but I have killer skills, dude.”
I was right about the old part, although experience and brains never hurt. My skills were not nearly as good as advertised. My ego had to swallow its pride and go back to class.
I survived, I graduated, and now I’m a much better cook. I re-learned the value of organization and have my mise in place. I can cook a great meal rapidly. I cook healthier, cheaper and less wastefully. My life is better, but only because I was forced by circumstance.
Don’t be like John. Get up off your balance ball and step away from your standup desk and upgrade your food skills. Wouldn’t it be cool if you knew how to make mozzarella, use your dusty kitchen knives, pull an espresso, grow hops and make kouign-amann by summer’s end?
(At the very least, learn how to taste wine to save your mind. In Neuroenology: How the Brain Creates the Taste of Wine, a neuroscientist details why conscious wine-tasting stimulates your brain so much more than, say, figuring values for pi or listening to Mozart. Plus, wine has nutrients.)
Boulder County is home to first-class food-teaching establishments. If you are a) intimidated, b) unwilling to commit more than an hour, and c) cheap, consider signing up for the one-hour lunch and dinnertime classes for $18.71 at The Kitchen Company cooking school during Longmont Restaurant Week. Subjects include making fresh mozzarella, 10-minute homemade bread and fresh pasta… and you get to eat. By the way, Longmont Restaurant Week, March 29 to April 7, offers fixed price meals at dozens of local eateries. kitchencolongmont.com.
Zen and the Art of Gyoza and Ravioli
Food Lab in Boulder has a full roster of cooking classes featuring dim sum (May 3) (including steamed pork buns, gyoza and egg rolls) and a fresh pasta workshop (April 10) (including ricotta-filled ravioli), plus kids’ cooking camps. foodlabboulder.com.
The single best thing you can do to improve your kitchen life for the rest of your life is to learn how to use and sharpen knives. The Kitchen Company, Food Lab and Colorado Free University all offer knife classes. Sur La Table at 29th Street offers essential knife skills (April 6) as well as a class in laminated French pastries (April 14) — that’s croissant, palmiers, turnovers and kouign-amann — and popular kids’ summer cooking camps. surlatable.com.
Temper, Temper and Then Tasty
Tasting a lot of chocolate is a required part of the curriculum at Boulder’s Piece, Love & Chocolate. The candy shop’s cocoa-focused technique classes include: Camp Cupcake (April 12), Tasty Truffles Part II: Advanced Truffles and Chocolate Tempering (April 28) and Tasty Truffles & Ganache Techniques (May 12). pieceloveandchocolate.com.
Cooking for the Health of It
Fresh Thymes Eatery dishes health-sensitive fare and its Fresh Thymes Marketplace focuses on cooking workshops, including making bone broth, maintaining optimal gut health, and cooking spring greens. freshthymes.com/classes.
Grow Cascade Hops for Your Homebrew
Longmont’s cool Brewmented shop and brewery focuses on fermented beverages, including beer, wine, mead, kombucha and cider. Besides its Learn to Brew Beer classes, the lineup includes a class on growing hops at home (April 6). Attendees go home with Cascade, Chinook or Tettnanger hops rhizomes to plant. brewmented.com.
5-Year-Old Field-to-Fork Chef
Boulder’s Growing Gardens offers summer classes including a field-to-fork cooking camp for 5- to 11-year-old chefs, and a family pasta-making class and meal (April 28) with Pastificio’s Claudia Bouvier. growinggardens.org.
To Be, or No Bees?
We are in the midst of a pollination crisis. We need more well-trained beekeepers. Growing Gardens’ beekeeper classes include Understanding the Bees (April 8). The Butterfly Pavilion has Beekeeping Bootcamp classes April through October. butterflies.org. Longmont’s Beehave offers a Beekeeping is NOT for Dummies workshop in April. sites.google.com/view/beehavementoring/home.
Meet the Food You Eat
Boulder’s Cure Organic Farm offers farm tours for groups including a meet-and-greet with the chickens, ducks and pigs, and a farm summer camp for kids. cureorganicfarm.com.
Become a Latte Impressionist
The barista skills hands-on workshop (April 6) at Ozo Coffee Lab & Training Center in Boulder teaches you how to craft espresso beverages, steam milk properly, choose the right beans, use espresso machines and grinders… and be the Michelangelo of milk foam. ozocoffee.com/classes.
Yummy Cheese and Baby Goats!
The Art of Cheese (next door to Haystack Mountain Creamery) offers professional cheesemaking workshops and classes for curd lovers, including those on mozzarella, ricotta and burrata (April 28), farm-to-table cheesemaking with Longmont farm tour and baby goats (April 5), and a rookie cheesemaking bootcamp (April 12). theartofcheese.com.
Brexit Tea for Duchess of Bedfordshire
A native Brit instructs one in serving teatime blackberry almond torte, real scones, ginger shortbread, tint sandwiches and proper English tea (May 19, June 19) through Denver’s Colorado Free University. freeuregistration.com.
Talk Like a Wine Master
Denver’s International Wine Guild offers a wide range of classes including the basics of wine tasting: Wine Components (April 20). Other nerdier classes: Wine History 1: 8000 BC to 1500 AD. internationalwineguild.com.
Taste of the Week
I grew up with volkornbrot in the fridge. It was dark, dense, heavy and threatening bread — my Vienna-born Dad loved to pair the toasted all-grain slices with stinky cheese. I avoided that rye bread at all costs unless I was desperate. When my taste buds finally grew up I started loving crustier, chewier and healthier loaves. I’m happy to see a new, local, heavy bread in grocery stores. Baked at Izzio Artisan Bakery in Louisville, the 100 percent Rye Bread is a tiny loaf jammed with rye kernels sweetened with a little molasses, plus pumpkin, sunflower and caraway seeds. The eight ultra-thin slices are 60 high-fiber, vegan, gluten-free calories each. This bread requires serious, lengthy toasting to bring out all its wonderful, earthy, chewy grain taste. You can have your bread and feel righteous about it, too. Izzio also bakes Ancient Grain Bread with spelt.
Words to Chew On
“I believe it’s a cook’s moral obligation to add more butter given the chance.” — Michael Ruhlman
John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles on KGNU. Podcasts: news.kgnu.org/category/radio-nibbles