Everyone should take a cooking class or spend time in a culinary school at some time in their lives. I thought it was “too late” for me, but was I wrong! On Friday, I was invited to attend the Seasonal School of Culinary Arts at Warren Wilson College for its end-of-week session. The students had just finished a full week and had a lot to share with me.
That morning, we met in the kitchen with instructors Jennifer Thomas from Montford Walk-In Bakery and Debby Maugans, an author/columnist and chef who writes for the Birmingham News. I felt lost at first, and somewhat intimidated, but they put me to work immediately measuring chocolate and flour, chopping eggplants, and grilling lamb and chicken. Our job was to prepare lunch for ourselves and the staff, utilizing recipes and advice from our two teachers. Suzi Gott Seguret, the school founder and director, made sure we had everything we needed to be successful.
By noon, the long wooden table on the cabin’s front porch was set, the dishes were finished, wine was poured, and we proceeded to eat and relish everyone’s stories from their week of culinary adventure. The food was good, too! Grilled Asian Eggplant Roulades stuffed with Pistachio Parsley Mint Pesto, Baked Purple Potato Canapés, Lavender Orange Marinated Chicken and Lamb Kebobs, and a melt-in-your-mouth Chocolate Beet Cake with Whipped Cream.
For the last six years, the SSCA has brought together top chefs who give of themselves to help cooks both young and elderly learn to be creative, develop new techniques, and hone existing skills. This week’s well-respected chefs included Mark Rosenstein, Nate Allen, Brian Canipelli, Chef Mo, Bill Klein, Michael Gentry, Chris Aquilino, Adam Hayes, Anthony Cerrato, Barbara Swell and Wally Mazzucco, Mary Collins-Shepard, Debby Maugans and Jennifer Thomas, along with wine tastings with Eberhard Heide, and beer tastings with Brian Cole. All this in one week!
As this was the final day of this session, the afternoon was for the students (and Bob) to prepare dinner, all by themselves, for the chefs, staff, and family members that evening. Let me say now that while natural leaders emerge, everyone in this group took leadership in different areas to complement each other and to bring a fabulous finished product to the table – on time and at the peak of perfection. From the table decorations to the stuffed chicken to the sweet biscuits and chocolate truffles, everything was thoroughly consumed, along with generous libations of wine and champagne.
Just think – these classes take place in Sonoma, Ithaca, and Paris throughout the year, in different seasons, and with different chefs, local foods, wines, and spirits – but with the same dedication to bringing together the best instructors and experiences to bolster, enrich, and fortify one’s creative culinary skills. I wonder not when, but where will I attend next?