Learn How to Cook: 5 Culinary Programs for Non-Chefs

Learn How to Cook: 5 Culinary Programs for Non-Chefs

It happens to the best of us: The great “Should-I-Go-To-Culinary-School-Debate.” The decision to learn how to cook is one that enters the minds of foodies at least once in life. Everyone tells us that we should open a restaurant, a bakery, or at least a booth at the farmers market. Why not get the education to go with it?

For many, enrolling in culinary school is a wonderful choice. Just think of all the restaurants, cooking shows and magazines the world would be missing without such acutely trained individuals. The rest of us, though, might be hesitant: To quit one’s day job, to take on another career change or to simply take a plunge. Luckily, for those willing to sacrifice only a few days, there are other ways to learn how to cook, by way of dedicated culinary schools.

Somewhere along the way, these folks got the memo that there were many of us facing such internal deliberation, and launched what is known as the culinary boot camp: A series of cooking classes to teach, above all, technique. Whether for pure fun or pure skill, these five programs across the U.S. are sure to have us packing our knives, and setting off for a delicious adventure.

1. Culinary Institute of America Boot Camp – Hyde Park, NY

Less than 90 miles north of New York City, there exists the opportunity to take “an unforgettable culinary vacation.” That’s how the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) describes its five-day Best of Boot Camp program: A series of intensive lessons on topics ranging from knife skills to the science and plating techniques of pastries. Not in the area? Fear not; CIA offers similar boot camps in St. Helena and San Antonio.

2. The Chopping Block Boot Camps – Chicago, IL

Chicago has certainly earned a reputation as one of the top foodie cities in the U.S. It comes as no surprise, then, that some cooking schools calling this midwest gem “home” have introduced professional-level programs for home cooks. The Chopping Block offers two tiers of Culinary Boot Camp: The first, a five-day “taste” of what culinary school may look like, and the second, a more in-depth continuation of Boot Camp 1. Looking for something a bit more specialized? The Chopping Block also offers niche boot camps on grilling, cupcakes and more.

3. Tante Marie’s Kitchen One-Week Cooking Camp – San Francisco, CA

Speaking of foodie cities, let’s not forget San Francisco, a.k.a. “dim sum central” and “home of the best burrito,” among other names given to it by those who have passed through its hilly streets. Among its many cooking schools is Tante Marie’s Kitchen, offering up its One-Week Cooking Camp to residents of and visitors to SF alike, wishing to learn cooking techniques across the edible board (meat, fish, vegetables and grains). In a hurry? A handful of spots are still available for the March 23-27 camp.

4. Cook Street Classic Techniques Series – Denver, CO

Ask anyone in Denver, and they’ll tell you that it’s not just about the beer and the legal marijuana. The city’s dining scene, too, should be just as much of a draw as its liquid- and plant-based amenities. Cook Street, a culinary academy neighboring Coors Field, offers two series of Classic Techniques classes: Essentials I, according to Cook Street’s website, to “develop your palate and your food and wine pairing knowledge,” and Essentials II, to “delve into new techniques.”

5. Biltmore Hotel Culinary Boot Camp – Coral Gables, FL

“When I go to Florida, I don’t want to lay on the beach the whole time,” say…a select few vacationers. Good news for those looking to beat their chances of sunstroke, but also, learn something: The chefs at the Biltmore, a hospitality legend, offer weekend-long culinary boot camps to both hotel guests and the public. Like many other programs, both a Level 1 and Level 2 are offered here: The first focused more on fundamentals and, the second, on specific dishes.

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Image: Les Roches International School of Hotel Management