Here’s the thing about my sisters and me. We clean like the wind, we chat up a storm, we mix food in bowls when instructed, but as far as chef-abilities go, it’s not typically been our adult forte. Telling inappropriate jokes? Check. Playing card games with the rabid aggression of the Lannister family? Check. Decorating the tree without breaking ornaments? We are masters.
But when it comes to holiday cooking, we haven’t been equipped to create a Dickens-esque table spread. We can do the basic things. We can handle the rolls, the mashed potatoes, the salads. But when it comes to the big-ticket holiday items, like ham or turkey or the mysterious yet mind-blowingly delicious pink-salad recipe my grandmother always makes, we’re novices.
So, this past Thanksgiving we rose with the sun, determined to learn the ways of the holiday turkey.
With our mother’s supervision, we tag teamed the process and at the ripe old age of 36, I was thereby inducted into the grown-up world of holiday cooking.
If you’re like us, and the mysteries of cooking have alluded you, or if you aren’t like us, and you have the greatest zest for all things food related, or if you’re like my mother and have grown children who perhaps need a push in the cooking-direction, the culinary classes at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute are an excellent gift choice this holiday season.
The program is headed up by Certified Executive Chef Robert Hall, who offers a variety of cooking experiences for a range of different skill levels. There’s the ever popular “Made from Scratch” classes, a demonstration class centered around specific culinary themes. The “Table for Two” classes are perfect for date nights, where couples prepare a four-course meal together and then enjoy a candlelit dinner. “Taste Test” is a new class on the roster that focuses on one ingredient, and how that ingredient differs from culture to culture and geographic regions. Some of the ingredients that will be featured include hot sauce, chocolate, olive oil, tomatoes and bacon.
When I spoke with Jeff LeMaster, director of Communications and Marketing, he discussed having participated in many classes over the years.
“They’re a lot of fun, but one of the most important things I’ve learned is that cooking and food don’t have to be intimidating. There are techniques that are difficult and can take time to be cultivated, but there are a lot of basic things that aren’t difficult once you learn the principles, such as searing meat or making sauce.”
He went on to say that Chef Hall, who has experience ranging from being the head of food services at UCA to cooking at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah and the summer Olympic games in Beijing, has a tangible goal for helping people with food.
“He wants to strip away some of the fears that surround cooking and help empower people to cook at home. It reduces the consumption of processed foods and helps people eat healthier.”
Many of the classes are holiday themed, and these would make the perfect gift for that food lover in your life, or your relative who has managed to avoid cooking a turkey for 36 years. Like me.
The Winthrop Rockefeller Institute is an educational and conference center that embodies the resources of the University of Arkansas System, along with the legacy of Governor Winthrop Rockefeller. Program areas include Agriculture, Arts and Humanities, Civic Engagement, Economic Development, and Health. All of the Institute’s culinary classes are listed at http://rockefellerinstitute.org/culinary-classes. For more information, visit the website, email Chef Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 501-727-5435 for ideas on holiday culinary classes for your loved ones.