Kevin and I have been on a cooking craze lately — trying out about half a dozen cooking schools in Los Angeles just this past year alone. We love it since it combines Kevin’s love to take classes, and well, my love of eating! What we learned is that each school had a very different approach — but probably the most vital part is the teacher. It’s one thing to know how to cook, but a whole other story when it comes to answering questions and keeping a classroom of students — with varying degrees of experience — all working together as a team.
And that’s what really made our most recent class stand out at Chef Eric’s Culinary Classroom. Chef Eric Crowley has a professional chef background graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in New York and worked his way through kitchens throughout some of Europe’s top restaurants including Barcelona’s famed Michelin-starred restaurant Via Veneto. He eventually returned back to the US where he worked with Patina Catering where he would cater events to crowds in the thousands. Perhaps what makes him so calm and collected when dealing with a room of only 15-20 students in his cooking school located in West LA.
I came across Chef Eric’s school while just surfing the web and came across the high Yelp reviews. But he’s no stranger to the cooking school biz. He’s taught professional and recreational cooking classes since 1999 for students both young and old (and Kevin and I would like to think we’re somewhere in between!).
With multiple classes every week, we had a hard time picking! I looked at the schedule and debated between Spanish cuisine, a course focused on chicken or a series on healthy cooking. It’s summer time and we figured it was time to get beach ready. So which one did I pick? Pastas and Sauces! I think I must have been really hungry that day and sick of salad…
We were among the first to arrive to class and got a seat in the main room where students are given aprons, a packet of recipes and pens to take notes. Before entering the kitchen, Chef Eric took us through the entire menu and explained the importance of ingredients and the various techniques we’d use in class. It’s all about adjusting a recipe to your personal preferences.
One of the first lessons covered the different types of flour used to make pasta. For example, bread flower produces a much softer pasta than a Semolina flour. Which now makes sense because when I was probably 12 years old, I bought a pasta machine that I constantly broke since I was using semolina which basically made pasta dough as tough as concrete! My mom is still probably finding dried pasta in the kitchen to this day!
We moved into the kitchen where we were split into teams of two to four students to prepare a dish.
In just 2 hours, we were to make the following:
- Fresh linguine pasta with sautéed turkey medallions with herbs and fried garlic sauce
- Wild mushroom and ricotta cheese ravioli with creamy white sauce
- Tagliatelle pasta with spicy sausage and red wine ragu sauce
- Homemade bowtie pasta with sautéed garlic and mushrooms
- And angel hair pasta with homemade marinara sauce
Clearly, we would not be going home hungry (at all!). Kevin and I teamed up with another couple where we were assigned to make the ravioli. The first step was to mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl and then to crack the eggs into the center of the bowl.
Kevin cracked the egg, though his aim was little off and it landed in the middle of the table. You know, Chef Eric made it look so easy in the demo at the beginning of class! After hunting down another egg, I took over any egg cracking duty!
Within 10 minutes, we had solid pasta dough. We were shocked at how fast and easy it was (you know, once we got the eggs into the bowl!). And were then instructed to pass the dough through the hand-cranked pasta machine, which was pretty much one of my favorite parts of making this dish. It felt like such a sense of accomplishment as we flattened the dough into a thin sheet.
We combined some ricotta cheese, minced garlic and chopped mushrooms to make the pasta filling and evenly spaced dollops on the one sheet of pasta dough, then placed another layer of pasta on top that was sealed using just water. It was like instant glue, and pretty cool!
The last part of the ravioli was to add an extra seal by cutting the pasta and using a fork to press the edges shut — helping to not only seal the pasta but also make it pretty. You know, it’s all about presentation!
As we were wrapping up our pasta dish, everyone else was finishing up their dishes as well. And Chef Eric demonstrated how to cook various sauces and sausage on the open flame. Dinner was almost ready. And we could stop sneaking in samples of leftover cheese!
Together, we all plated the dishes and everyone whipped out their iPhones to capture the feast. It was pretty impressive. And then we all ate. There goes our summer diets!
We definitely ate way more than we should but luckily the class we took ended fairly early — allowing us time to walk off some of that dinner. It was just all too good to pass up! Besides the great food, one of the top priorities for us is the ease of booking — especially with the amount of travel we do. Chef Eric offers a complete listing of courses online including recreation classes, professional and novice cooking series, knife techniques and baking. It’s always changing and the school even offers themed classes around certain holidays. The school is very responsive over email and can share their monthly class schedules along with detailed information on each course.
Be sure to check it out! And take our advice, come hungry!
- Course is set up with students prepping separate dishes, which you all get to eat at the end
- Class price varies, but individual specialty cooking classes typically cost around $95 per person
- For all adult classes, bring your own wine if you’d like
- Besides novice and professional cooking classes, Chef Eric also offers children’s summer cooking and baking camps, private cooking parties and team building for corporate events
- Culinary Classroom offers a wide range of classes, check out the schedule here