Azur’s Chef Jeremy Ashby part of Lexington cooking school lineup
Local cooking classes offer wide range of culinary training
By Abby Laub
For bewildered Lexingtonians looking for a way to entertain guests over the holidays, a slew of local cooking classes offer a wide variety of tools to feed visitors or provide an entertaining night out.
"It's more about the experience than just about the cooking — that's just a bonus,” said Wild Thyme owner Allison Davis about the shop’s cooking classes. “Cooking appeals to so many people on so many levels."
Wild Thyme offers classes Monday through Saturdays, including gingerbread building classes for families leading up to the holidays, and often features guest chefs.
Later this month, Wild Thyme will host pie and turkey workshops, an array of activities leading up to Christmas, and by January they will offer healthy cooking classes in time for New Year’s resolutions. New to the list are Thanksgiving for Two and Contemporary Thanksgiving classes.
As a “fully hands-on experience in Lexington,” Davis said each guest has their own cooking station and utensils to follow every single step on their own. An added bonus? She said guests are welcome to bring their own alcohol and eat all of the food they prepare. Classes range from two to three hours.
Davis added there are many parent-child classes for people wanting to get out during the cold months. The kitchen can accommodate up to 20 people.
At Apropos Culinary Arts Center, with classes to be held in the brand new Kitchen Concepts showroom off of Mall Road, owner Ashley Minton will also offer guests a way to survive the holidays, with classes like Thanksgiving 101 and holiday appetizer ideas.
The atmosphere also can be light for people searching for amusement and serious for people who already know their way around the kitchen, which Minton described as “top of the line.”
"Some people are really comfortable and want to learn more, and some have never touched a knife or boiled water, so it's interesting to see the different types of people,” she said. “Most classes are geared toward instruction and teaching people actually how to do things and to make sure they grasp it.”
Minton is excited to see such a wide range of people interested in food in Lexington.
"It seems like a lot of people are beginning to get away from restaurants and back to the kitchen and want to make things that are healthier and to make things that they know what's in it,” she said.
Overall, she said the town’s food scene is finally “graduating,” with fewer chain restaurants and more gourmet locations.
Also, she thinks people are looking for food hobbies, and they “want to be able to impress their friends” in the kitchen.
“You actually get to use those skills the rest of your life,” Minton said, adding that in a tough economy people are going to pick something of both value and entertainment like a cooking class.
At Kitchen Concepts, the kitchen is set up both for demonstrative and hands on oriented classes, and it also includes a classroom with stadium seating.
The newly opened shop is looking ahead to 2012 when it will expand to some international dishes, a Valentine’s Day-themed special or maybe even men-only classes. Classes range from one hours to three hours.
Azur chef Jeremy Ashby will be pulling out all of the stops for his exclusive, one-night only class on Nov. 23. [Ashby was voted Best Chef by Ace Readers in the 2011 Best of Lexington Readers' Poll.]
The award-winning Ashby joked that his demonstration-only class will be a chance for foodies to get out of the house when family is visiting to enjoy a meal that “has absolutely nothing to do with Thanksgiving.”
“But it does have everything to do with fall,” he added. "We found that a lot of people coming into town to visit family — sometimes people don't want to visit family that much — they want to get out of the house."
The five-course menu has many complex and innovative items, with each course including a detailed demonstration on how it is prepared, presented and “composed” on the plate.
Course three is a housemade tagliatelle carbonara including egg, scallion, guanciale and arugula with a demo from Lexington Pasta’s Lesme Romero on curing pork and classic carbonara. Stuart Upgard from Stuarto’s Olive Oils will be on hand for the first course to help people understand the “salad landscape.”
While the demonstrations happen, Ashby said guests will be encouraged to eat and have a great time in the dining room of Azur.
The class will be capped at 50 people, while part of the restaurant will still be open for regular business.
And though the five-course meal may have a long list of ingredients, Ashby said it is nothing people will not be able to recreate in their own kitchen.
“Part of the style here is we want it to be mystical sounding, but then when you taste it it's familiar,” he said. "I don't think there will be any problems with ingredients, but there may be a few things I throw in there from a molecular standpoint."
The people who visit Azur, he said, are “big foodies, so if they’re going to do a demonstration it has be at high levels. They’re used to eating five courses of very nice stuff so it’s not going to be dumbed down.”
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