Several local cooking academies have brought their classes to the virtual world or scaled down the number of students in their in-person classes. Three of those are Gather Food Studio, Sweet Addict Bakery and Colorado Springs Vegan Cooking Academy.
Gather Food Studio and Spice Shop
Gather Food Studio and Spice Shop, 2011 W. Colorado Ave., is what chefs and owners David Cook and Cortney Smith call “a recreational and educational cooking school.” They teach both in-person and virtual classes.
Cook has been a restaurant chef for more than 20 years. He studied at Johnson and Wales University.
Smith said her love of food may have started in the womb.
“Born into a food obsessed family, her uncle was a chef and owned a restaurant and food and family were intertwined,” claims their web page.
Typically, their in-person class are held Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, while online classes are held Fridays and Saturdays.
With most of the virtual classes, students have two options: buy your ingredients on your own and prep them yourself, or pay $50 for a vacuum packed, pre-measured kit.
In both the in-person and virtual classes, students typically make two recipes that each feed four people. “All you are required to bring is a positive attitude and your appetite!” Cook and Smith provide all the rest, including aprons.
Usually there are eight students in the in-person classes and up to 16 in the virtual classes.
At one recent virtual class called “50 Shades of Gravy,” Cook asked students to talk about their most epic gravy failure.
“Most years I almost have a heart attack making gravy. None of it is really great,” said student Linda Kopman. “My mom made great gravy.”
This seemed to be the general sentiment of the class: a childhood of great gravy, but an adulthood of lumpy disasters.
Another student, Kelle Osburn, said, “My first gravy fail was right after we got married. My mother-in-law always made the white fried chicken gravy and that’s what I tried to do. I scooped the white lumps into the garbage” before anyone knew and served it, she said.
Cook taught basic techniques to make a great gravy. He suggested making a stock the week before with a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. In a class handout, Cook wrote, “Stock is a gelatinous, flavorful liquid produced by simmering bones, vegetables, herbs, and spices in a cooking liquid,” usually cold water to start. “The simmering process extracts flavor from the ingredients.”
Cook offered several methods to thicken the stock into gravy, but the most basic is to make a slurry of cornstarch or flour and cold water.
“One cup of liquid can be thickened by two tablespoons of flour or one tablespoon of cornstarch,” he said.
Mix equal parts cornstarch and water, or double the flour-to-water-ratio. This prevents the ever-dreaded gravy lumps. Cook said spooning flour directly into a hot liquid causes a gel to form around the flour, preventing it from incorporating into the liquid.
If you do choose to use the turkey drippings for your gravy, create an edible rack on the bottom of the pan using washed carrots, celery and onions. Lay the turkey on it and add a bit of water and a bay leaf.
Next, Cook demonstrated “different gravy ideas you didn’t even consider,” including a chipotle citrus gravy and red eye gravy, a Southern staple made with ham fat drippings and strong coffee.
Gather Food Studio offers lots of options for private events such as bachelorette parties, corporate and birthday party cooking classes. They are completely booked for the holidays.
Gather recently open a spice shop in the 1919 bungalow where their classes take place. Walking into the space, shoppers are greeted with the fragrance of freshly ground spices. Gather grinds the ingredients fresh in front of you, Cook noting the cost is less than that of a grocery store product.
Besides adult classes, Gather offers two sets of children’s cooking classes: a 6- to 10-year-old class and an 11- to 14-year-old class. For a list of classes and to register, go to gatherfoodstudio.com/cooking-classes.
Colorado Springs Vegan Cooking Academy
Colorado Springs Vegan Cooking Academy and Main Street Vegan Academy teaches online only since the start of the pandemic in March. Owner JL Fields teaches private online cooking classes $75 per hour. Look for her series of free weekly online cooking classes.
“This summer I started offering sliding scale classes — including free, online-only, two a month,” says Fields, suggesting $5 for the class.
She has a recorded many of her classes that can be watched on her website, jlgoesvegan.com/classes, or her YouTube channel. During a pre-recorded class on sauces, there were more than 100 people from all over the country in attendance.
Her classes are interactive, Fields asking questions of her viewers and allowing questions, mostly through the chat function of Zoom. She made a tomato marinara sauce using her InstaPot, a tool she uses often in her classes.
Fields will be on hiatus until March 6, when she will plans to teach a six-hour online Fundamentals of Vegan Cooking certificate class. Her pre-recorded classes will still be available.
Crafted Colorado/Sweet Addict Bakery
Sweet Addict Bakery, 327 N. Tejon St., is owned by Deidre Peak, who co-owns Crafted Colorado Handmade Market with Risa Goodwin. The bakery offers in-person cooking classes at their Old Colorado City location, 2609 W. Colorado Ave.
Master Baker Peak began baking and selling confections out of her college condo. Her online shop was in the top 1% sellers on Etsy.com.
Her classes are also offered on her YouTube channel, bit.ly/3nmVGKbm, where she teaches classes on making cinnamon rolls, pizza and donuts.
During a recent gourmet caramel baking class, Peak walked students through the process of cooking water and corn syrup together to make a deep, rich colored liquid. This was carefully mixed with heavy cream and sweet artisan butter provided by Sawatch Artisan Foods, 13710 Struthers Road in Colorado Springs. The European-style butter can be ordered online at sawatchartisanfoods.com.
As the caramel mixture reached a temperature of 240 degrees Fahrenheit students cut and wrapped pre-made caramels that had cooled enough to handle.
Sweet Addict has loads of holiday classes, including holiday cookies, tamales and Yule log or gingerbread decorating classes. Classes are listed through craftedcoloradoltd.com/events.