February 24, 2014

Few things in life are as gratifying as cooking an amazing meal that your loved ones truly appreciate. Whether you are an experienced cook or a novice, there are many excellent cooking classes around Orange County where you can hone your skills.

Cooking classes can be great for date nights or girls'€™ nights out, and are excellent places to meet other '€œfoodies'€ while having lots of fun! I'€™ve attended many great cooking classes around Orange County, and here are some of my favorites.

PREP Kitchen Essentials is a retail store and cooking school located in Seal Beach. They carry high-quality kitchen products and offer a wide range of top-rated, hands-on cooking classes for novice and experienced cooks alike. PREP Kitchen creates a comfortable, practical, social and instructive teaching environment where participants learn to become more confident and capable in the kitchen. Students learn under the tutelage of experienced chefs and, after cooking, are able enjoy the dishes that are prepared. Students also get 10% off of merchandise in the store the day of the class.

I'€™ve recently taken PREP Kitchen cooking classes with Chef Elizabeth Whitt and Chef Rahm Fama. Chef Whitt has a Grand Diplome in Pastry and Cuisine from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. In her '€œDelicious Chicken Dinners'€ class we made three fabulous main course dishes: Chicken Parmesan with pasta, Chicken Marsala with roasted potatoes, and Chicken Lettuce Wraps, as well as a surprisingly simple and delicious Pear Tartlette with Crème Fraiche and Balsamic Vinegar. She had many great tips for food preparation and showed us how to cook chicken that is always tender, juicy and delicious.

Chef Rahm Fama is a chef and host on The Food Network, and I attended his '€œTastes of Spain: Tapas and Paella'€ class. Chef Fama taught us many excellent techniques and has a great personality, so taking his class was a blast! We made a wonderful chicken, seafood and sausage paella, stuffed piquillo peppers with salmon tartar, Spanish ham and potato tortilla and Catalan flatbread with olive tapenade. Most of the students purchased wine from the retail store and enjoyed it while cooking and eating the meal at the end. More information and class schedules are on the PREP Kitchen Essentials website.

Sur La Table is a retail store with excellent cooking schools at the Newport Beach and Costa Mesa locations. They show you how to create delicious dishes that are more about the techniques than recipes. From Thai to Texas barbecue, students can explore a world of cuisines and disciplines, and learn fundamental skills for a lifetime of great cooking. Check out their website for additional information and class schedules.

La Cuisine Culinary Arts is the new name for Laguna Culinary Arts, which recently relocated to Macy's Home Store at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. Under the ownership and management of Chef Laurent Brazier, the school offers all levels of cooking classes from Home Chef to Professional Chef. Popular Home Chef classes include a Gourmet Series, Gourmet Crash Course, Sauces, Baking and Pastry, and Date Night. For more detailed information about La Cuisine Culinary Arts cooking classes, visit the schedule of classes section of their website.

Photo courtesy of La Cuisine Culinary Arts

The Wine Artist is a hidden gem in Lake Forest. It is a winery and private event venue where you can bottle your own wine, complete with a custom label to commemorate the special event. After cooking classes, participants get to enjoy their delicious creations along with wine. Classes vary by types of cuisines, such as Tastes of Italy, France, Thailand, or Spain, as well as sushi, Mediterranean and vegetarian cooking."  See their website and class calendar for more information.