by Jeff Zippin
As big fans of Hill Center programs, it was a no-brainer for us to enroll in cooking classes. I cook, my wife Judy bakes and we both love to eat. Anything that can add to our culinary repertoire is right up our alley.
Our first class was with Toki Underground chef Eric Bruner-Yang, and was a perfect introduction to Cambodian cuisine. We had certainly never put a fish dish in a banana-leaf bowl.
Hill Center’s kitchen is an intimate space, good for a class of up to 16 people. You watch or work at the island in front of the stove or at the tables set up further back. An overhead camera projecting on an elevated flat screen can focus on the chef’s cutting, mixing and cooking so you can see from anywhere.
Some classes are hands on: follow instructions because you’re going to eat the results. Other classes are demonstrations where you eat the chef’s handiwork (yum).
Chef Gérard Pangaud, a favorite of ours, offers classic and modern French cooking classes (we have taken about six). Some are demonstrations, some hands-on. Pangaud’s classes are true dives into cooking technique, not just recipes. We tried his seafood boudin with lobster sauce for friends and they were blown away. We also made puff pastry at home as he instructed – another success.
We had a good primer on cooking fish from District Fishwife co-owner Fiona Lewis. We learned to gut and scale the fish (we each had a small branzino), stuffed it with herbs and citrus and steamed it in foil. We even each filleted our own sardine.
A great side benefit of these classes is that we meet more of our neighbors on the Hill and enjoy the camaraderie of shared cooking and dining.