Well, if you go to The Chopping Block, the answer to that question is: a lot!! From street food to sushi, and from Thai food to tarts…The Chopping Block offers dozens of different cooking classes. There are “Date Night” classes, kids classes, outdoor grilling classes, demonstrations, hands-on classes and day-long bootcamps. Between the two locations – one in the Merchandise Mart and one in Lincoln Square – hundreds of classes take place each month.
Over the past four years or so, my nieces and my friends and I have made it a tradition to take a class or two every year. It’s something that we all look forward to and enjoy every minute of. Our last class was the vegetarian-friendly “Italian Garden”, held at the Lincoln Square location. The amazing menu was made up of roasted garlic and artichoke focaccia, fire-roasted red pepper and arugula salad with toasted pine nuts, grilled eggplant and tomato napoleon, and summer berries with zabaglione. Yummmmmy. Here’s our fabulous napoleon before it went into the oven:
The classes are all taught by professional chefs, and in our experience, they have all been very friendly, fun, knowledgeable and happy to answer questions along the way. When you first arrive, you are shown to your cooking station, which are set up for groups of 3 to 5 people. Be aware that if there are less than five of you, you will likely be paired with a person or persons you don’t know. For some, that’s part of the fun…but if you’ve read my river cruising posts, you will know I’m not part of that some.
We’ve actually gotten pretty lucky being paired with good people, except for one time. Unfortunately, we were stuck with that person that NOBODY can stand…you know, the overbearing know-it-all who keeps interrupting the instructor and disagrees under her breath (very loudly) with what they are saying, the one who bosses everyone else around. Even my niece, Jessica – who has the patience of a saint – was ready to slap her with a spatula 20 minutes into class.
Anyway. At your station, you will find most of the ingredients and items you will be cooking with, as well as a printout of all the instructions (they e-mail this to you after class as well).
Most of the time, the chef will stray a bit from the printed instructions per his or her preferences, but they’ll let you know so you can make notes. They demonstrate each step, then wander from station to station helping out or answering questions as needed. Some of the chefs are more serious than others, but some you can really have a lot of fun with.
Here are some action shots from our last class:
Also, another important thing to note is that you can purchase some very good (and reasonably priced) bottles of wine or beer to drink during class…which makes it even more fun. Some of the classes start at 10:00 a.m., but we still drink because it’s 5:00 somewhere. You can also bring your own alcohol if you want, but you’ll have to pay a $10 corkage fee.
These hands-on classes usually last around 3 hours, and once you are done cooking, you get to eat all the fabulous food you just made. They also supply to-go containers if you can’t finish everything (and there’s always a lot).
Before you leave either location, you have to go through the shop to settle your bill. This is where it gets really dangerous because, after class (especially if you had a couple glasses of wine) you will be feeling like you are awesome enough to open your own restaurant. You will want to buy a zillion gadgets that you think you can’t live without, but probably won’t ever use again (happens to me every single time).
Taking a class at The Chopping Block is, quite simply, a ton of fun. The classes are made up of people of all ages, couples, friends, families or people who come on their own because they enjoy cooking and want to meet new people.
Hands-on classes average about $85 and demonstration classes are cheaper. Day-long or multiple day bootcamps are obviously more expensive. You can also book the kitchens for private events – which I really want to do one day to have an Iron Chef competition for my whole family. But we are so fiercely competitive, I’m guessing there’s a pretty big chance they’ll take all the sharp objects away from us.
If you like cooking, you will absolutely love taking a class at The Chopping Block. Don’t be intimidated and think you have to be a good or experienced cook already – you don’t. Just check out the calendar and see what interests you. Then sign up and prepare to have a blast!
Have you ever taken a class at The Chopping Block? If so, which one and did you have a great time?