There are any number of reasons a person decides to take a cooking class. It could be a new partner, more free time, a dinner party menu gone horribly wrong, the list goes on. Fortunately, the list of cooking classes and schools available in New Jersey is longer than you might guess.
But before you buy a paper chef’s hat, a couple things to keep in mind as you search for your culinary classroom: skill levels vary from class to class (i.e., beginners shouldn’t sign up for “Japanese Knife Skills: Level 3”); allergies and restrictions aren’t always taken into account in the course description (so tell the instructor, or better yet, ask when you register); and—maybe most important—cooking classes can be expensive. Some are neighborhoody and cozy, some are conducted in gorgeous, spotless kitchens we’d be afraid to squeeze a bottle of ketchup in. Choose accordingly. Also it always pays to check out who’s teaching—authentic, expert-level skills might make a more expensive class worth it, especially if you’ve always wanted to learn how to cook with Indian spices or make homemade pasta.
Here’s a list with some of the best places in New Jersey to take a cooking class.
Not every class at Heirloom Kitchen is taught by Top Chef-alum David Viana, but considering the polish of the food coming out of Heirloom’s kitchen, we’ll have an apple polished and ready for whoever’s at the head of the class. Heirloom Kitchen is a multi-faceted outlet that’s home to Viana’s cooking as well as a market and cooking classes, which are typically posted online a month in advance. As it turns out, that’s just barely enough time to keep up with how quickly they sell out (and it’s not just “Top Chef” buzz—the food here is the real deal). No surprise, pretty much everything’s sold out through July, so check in early next month to see what’s on the schedule for August. And keep up with their Instagram, if only because it’s fun.
Average Cost: $110
Sign Us Up: “Moroccan Cuisine” on June 25th (it’s available, but we’ll make chermoula and eat beautiful food with our hands).
The Farm Cooking School has a deceptively humble name. For one thing, the scenery’s idyllic, but there’s also serious culinary chops here: founders Ian Knauer and Shelley Wiseman met in the kitchens of the late, great Gourmet Magazine. And while their alma mater is no more—and RIP—the duo found greener pastures, literally, with their Titusville school. A bit more expensive, yes, but thoughtful and thorough: classes like “Intro to Fermentation” and “Couples Cook Indian” are interspersed on the schedule with special dinners (e.g. “Malaysian Farm to Table Dinner with Chef Nicholas Lee”), so sign up as you see fit (if you’re feeling less hands-on than fork-on). Bonus points for the “Science and Cooking” series and guest chefs like Miriam Flores, who’s hosting five days of Mexican classes in mid-July.
Average Cost: $95
Sign Us Up: “Basic & Next Level Cheesemaking” on July 5 for, well, cheese.
The “classroom” at Hudson Table is reason enough to book a class—open, airy, beautifully outfitted with the latest cooking equipment. Trigonometry might even seem wonderful in there. Lucky for you, subject matter is a lot more fun—courses range from urban-practical “Apartment Grilling” and simply classic “French Desserts” to “Summer Baby Food Purees” and a Saturday “Brunch-themed 3-Course Chef Competition” a la “Chopped” (which also somehow includes a wine tasting). Classes really are plentiful—and popular—so keep an eye on their online schedule and register quickly.
Average Cost: $90
Sign Us Up: “Fast Food Cravings” on July 18 to learn how to make In-n-Out ‘Animal Style’ fries.
Cooking aspirations or no, this is a serious resource for anyone within driving range. It’s 68 acres of a former dairy farm converted to an educational facility (the best kind—working farm, farmers market, kitchen, cooking classes). Speaking of, not only do they keep a bustling calendar of all manner of classes (“Pizza from Scratch,” “Poke Bowls & Spring Rolls,” etc.), but the chefs come from all walks of life with all kinds of culinary expertise—from Thessaloniki, Greece, to a Haddon Township-based professional chocolatier to the former Dean of Advanced Global Cuisines at the Culinary Institute of America.
Average Cost: $45
Sign Us Up: “Time to Make the Donuts” on July 10, where you’ll learn how to make fillings from scratch, glazes and more.
The caveat with classes at cooking store Sur La Table is not every store has a very robust class schedule. The location at the Quaker Bridge Mall is an exception—their schedule is teeming with class options, many of which are already sold out (e.g. the hands-on “Date Night: French Riviera” on Saturday, June 29). Part of the draw no doubt is that “date night” format, but there are plenty of regular classes to choose from no matter your romantic situation. Bonus points, you get the liveliness and amenities of the mall.
Average Cost: $59
Sign Us Up: “Global Doughnuts” on July 4. Bomboloni, beignets, churros—God Bless America.
Another place to put on your list if you’re looking to cook in exquisite kitchens (the grounds of Natirar aren’t too shabby, either). But the Cooking School here isn’t just pretty—they put on a solid program, with specific, carefully curated courses on a range of seasonally-tailored subjects—“Evenings in Sorrento,” “Mediterranean Seaside,” and “Down East: Maine Lobster and More.” Ticket prices are high, but that includes all materials (not including libations) not to mention guarantees expertise at the head of the class. Definitely a gift and/or “destination” cooking class, but be warned the hot tickets (and most of them are) go fast despite the price.
Average Cost: $130
Sign Us Up: “All American Surf & Turf” on July 5 (for sous vide steak, among other things).
Kings Markets are reasonably gourmet, but the location in Short Hills is also home to a Cooking Studio with solid instructors and a busy class schedule—with two, three, even sometimes four classes in any given week. Courses span the gamut from practical “Seafood Dinner for a Crowd” to just delightful, e.g. “Grilling Under the Stars.” Bonus points for having “Teens” and “Kids” classes, not to mention a “Meet the Maker” component where you can meet (and learn from) local area producers.
Average Cost: $65
Sign Us Up: “Heirloom Indian Cooking” on June 27 for tips from health and wellness chef Guddia Singh.
Sure, In the Kitchen Cooking School in Haddonfield might not have all the bells and whistles of other (more expensive) schools, but what they have is essential—namely, dedication “to teaching real kitchen skills.” In fact maybe the best kind of cooking school is the reliable, comfortable neighborhood school that offers things like a Core Curriculum (for those in need of some culinary fundamentals) and keeps every class, no matter the level, as technique-driven as possible.” Not that fundamentals can’t also be luxurious—June and July are rounding out with subjects like “Summer in Provence,” “Flavors of Vietnam,” even a produce-celebrating “Summer in New Jersey.”
Average Cost: $70
Sign Us Up: “Homage to Julia,” on August 15, celebrating Julia Child’s birthday with food (of course).
The Montclair Culinary Academy has plenty of options for cooking with kids (including an entire “Summer Camp” series), but they also have a strong roster of classes just for grown-ups (as in BYO “Sip and Cook” classes). Chef-owner Karan Fischer brings plenty of experience to her role as de facto Academy dean—she graduated from ICE, lives in Montclair, and has made healthy, local food a focal point of her professional life from the get-go for everyone from the Alicia Keys Foundation and the New York Times to private Hamptons clients to, well, whoever snags a place in the upcoming “Secrets of a Grill Master.” FYI, classes supposedly sell out quickly.
Average Cost: $95
Sign Us Up: A repeat of June 14’s “Knife Skills & the Art of Ceviche” for Peruvian, Ecuadorian, and Mexican ceviches. Yes.
Here’s another spot that offers kid-specific courses, including a (mostly sold out) Summer Camp, and a BYO option for the many adults-only classes on their monthly calendars. But what might differentiate Healthy Italia most, beyond its big airy cooking demo space, is the fact that it was founded by ex-pat Italian food loving friends who wanted to see more healthy and authentic Italian options in the Madison area. Subjects seem to tend towards thorough-but-fun takes on classics (from basic “Pasta Workshop” to “Italian Street Food: Did you say ‘Arancini’?”) Every class means a meal and whatever you choose to BYO. The fundamental lesson seems to be passionate cooking, simply done. Per Instagram of asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, they’re sticking to their word.
Average Cost: $85
Sign Us Up: “Date Night Pizza and Beer” on August 23 (date or no, it’s pizza and beer from Italians who love cooking).Click here to leave a comment