What’s Cooking this Summer?


In spite of wielding eight inch blades for two days, we each went home with all of our fingers intact! That’s because the first thing Chef Dan Witherspoon teaches his students at The Seasoned Chef Cooking School is “safety in the kitchen.” If you want to learn the basics of cooking, or simply need better knife skills so your blood doesn’t end up in Sunday night’s dinner, The Seasoned Chef offers cooking classes and culinary camps for both teens and Adults.

The courses start with a mini-class that teaches you how to properly choose, and then use your knife. Be prepared to cut up lots of fresh fruits and veggies. The most provocative part of this culinary techniques class is that you are in a totally hands-on environment. At the Seasoned Chef you, and not the instructor, cook all the food.

Each cooking class has a themed menu. Some of the children’s camps this summer include Rollin’ Sushi, An Italian Adventure, and A Mexican Fiesta. Sushi is a Japanese food that combines vinegary rice with a variety of different ingredients such as raw seafood and vegetables. The Italian Adventure class teaches participants how to make menu items like handmade fettucine, sundried tomato bruschetta, and almond biscotti. Having attended the class, A Mexican Fiesta is my personal favorite. At this camp, we made everything from homemade tortillas to deep fried churros with a Mexican hot chocolate dipping sauce.
The classes are designed around a theme, but the chefs teach students to cook menu items to their personal taste. My favorite recipe from class was absolutely delectable and the school gave me permission to share:
Tortilla Soup
2 Tbs. Vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 Tbs. minced garlic
2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded, and minced
6 cups chicken stock
1 (14.5-ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 (14.5-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
3 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
2 limes, juiced, plus wedges for garnish
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 small bag corn tortilla chips, hand crumbled
1 avocado, pitted and sliced
1 cup shredded Monterrey cheese

In a large saucepan, heat the vegetable oil. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Once the onions have softened, add the garlic and jalapenos and cook for another minute. Pour the chicken broth, tomatoes, and beans into the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes.
Add the chicken and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the chicken and let cool. When cool enough to handle, hand tear into small, bite-sized pieces.
When ready to serve, add lime juice and fresh cilantro to the pot. Taste and adjust the seasonings. In a serving bowl, add a mound of the chicken. Ladle soup over chicken and serve with lime wedge, tortilla strips, avocado slices, and cheese.

After mastering some of the classes, students may wish to consider participating in the school’s Chopped Jr Competition. This class gives groups of participants (ages 11 and up) the chance to create something fabulous with two mystery ingredients. Judges determine the winners of the cook-off. First prize is a free cooking class and some kitchen utensils.

I had lots of fun at the Seasoned Chef and my classmates also gave the Mexican Fiesta camp rave reviews. Some of the up-coming classes include Mastering the Chef’s Knife on August 3rd and Classic Indian Cuisine on August 15th (see www.theseasonedchef.com). The best part of cooking school – someone else does the dishes!