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Lately, I’ve been very into cooking. I can trace this desire to sustain myself with home-cooked meals to two things: the pandemic and #foodtok (cooking videos on TikTok). Unlike the many home cooks who found solace in things like baking bread during the pandemic, I discovered takeout — a magical service I didn’t use much in pre-Covid times. About a year and a half later, I realized though how delivery services can wreak havoc on a bank account and desperately needed a way to sustain myself without going broke.
Couple this with the emergence of #foodtok, which has become an arbiter of kitchen trends over the last eighteen month. Similar to Buzzfeed’s Tasty food videos you’ve probably come across on Facebook, many of these clips on TikTok make cooking seem approachable, offering step-by-step instructions in less than a minute. You can quickly see how the dish is prepared and gauge whether or not you’re competent enough to take a stab at it.
This is really where my current problem with cooking lies: I’m a bit incompetent in the kitchen. I don’t know how to correctly hold a chef’s knife or how to dice an onion. And up until a month ago, I was perplexed by fresh garlic — how to peel it, how to use it and I certainly didn’t know how to “mince” it.
I understand this all sounds preposterous to those with more experience, but for first-timers who have never diced or minced something it can be extremely daunting and wildly confusing. There are no instructions attached to a head of garlic (believe me, I’ve looked), and recipes don’t often include a footnote about mincing. Of course, there is an endless stream of wikiHow articles and YouTube videos that do provide this essential knowledge, but there’s still no telling if you’re actually doing any of it correctly.
It’s why I was elated when I was offered to opportunity to take an in-person and online cooking class with Sur La Table, the retail company that not only sells superb kitchenware but also offers expertly taught cooking classes that are designed for every type of chef. Whether you’re looking to learn essential kitchen techniques or try your hand at preparing Michelin-star-worthy dishes, Sur La Table makes it easier than going at it alone, and not to mention, super fun.
So below is a review of Sur La Table’s cooking classes from a totally amateur chef:
What: Sur La Table In-Store Cooking Class
What I made: Seared Steak with Gorgonzola-Shallot Butter, Creamed Kale with Roasted Garlic, Thyme and Gruyère Popovers and Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée
Length: 2 to 2 1/2 hours
The in-store cooking class I attended was called “Date Night: New York Steakhouse.” I chose this particular class because I am petrified of cooking meat and am always afraid I will undercook it and I guess accidentally poison myself? Plus I don’t often have the luxury of eating steak and this was an opportunity to do just that. But Sur La Table offers a slew of different classes from homemade challah to ravioli to even notoriously hard-to-make macarons you can choose from.
So what should you expect?
I initially thought I’d be given a raw steak and told “good luck,” but everyone in the class was supplied an apron and split into groups of four with an expert chef at the helm. Everyone in my group divided up responsibilities, but before we could begin preparing our meal, our chef instructed us on how to complete each step. This is when I learned how to hold a chef’s knife without slicing my fingers off and how to correctly chop a scallion, two essential skills that have now been burned into my brain forever
The rest of the class was just really fun. We made fancy butter (Gorgonzola-Shallot Butter to be exact) which was so delicious and I hadn’t realized you could elevate butter in such a way. We chopped up extremely large pieces of kale in order to make Creamed Kale with Roasted Garlic and mixed a bunch of ingredients I can’t recall to make Thyme and Gruyère Popovers. Both of which, as you might surmise, were very, very scrumptious. (I’m still shook that kale could be so appetizing.)
The steak was, to my surprise, pretty easy to cook. After seasoning the meat, our chef instructed us how to place our steak on the stove (something I did wrong the first go-around but eventually corrected.) After our steaks finished cooking, we sat down to enjoy the meal we collectively cooked and later, topped off our night by individually torching our creme brulee.
Ultimately, it was an informational, enjoyable experience. While I wasn’t here on a date night as the name of the class suggests, it would, in fact, be a perfect date night activity and it’s something even the most adept chef would enjoy. While you’re not completely left to your own devices, you’re also not being handled with kid gloves. Plus, you get a delicious, hard-earned meal at the end of it.
What: Sur La Table Online Cooking Class
What I made: Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter Sauce
Length: 1 1/2 to 2 hours
Similar to the in-store cooking classes, you can choose from an assortment of online cooking classes from Sur La Table. Now, there are multiple benefits of choosing an online cooking class compared to the in-person one: You get to cook in the comfort of your own kitchen, you don’t have to be surrounded by other people and it’s cheaper. Also, you can drink. It’s a perfect choice if there are no Sur La Table stores near you or you’re taking COVID-19 precautions but still want to learn from seasoned chefs and experience a fully interactive cooking class. You will, however, have to do a bit more preparation and homework for this one — collecting your ingredients and reading the instructions on your prep packet prior to the class.
The latter is something I did not do ahead of my gnocchi cooking class last week, so I had a bit of a different experience compared to my fellow classmates. In order to save time and get to cooking right away, our downloadable prep packets instructed us to start making our potatoes for the gnocchi dough an hour before class. Since I did not read the packet until ten minutes before my class started, you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that very important step.
While my partner and I played catch-up most of our gnocchi-making class, it was still easy to follow and very enjoyable. While Zoom can be a barrier in certain aspects (the class was 20 minutes delayed due to technical difficulties), we were still able to ask our chef questions and he was able to assess whether our dough looked right (it did not) and swiftly instruct us on how to fix it. And for two people who have never made homemade pasta in their lives, my partner and I were pretty pleased with ourselves.
Like Sur La Table’s in-store classes, the company’s online offerings make for a unique date night but can easily be enjoyed solo as well. Just be sure to read the prep packet ahead of time.
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