Brooklyn Brims With Culinary Courses

Sign up for a class at one of the borough’s many schools.

To the list of reasons to live here, add this one: walking access to some of the best cooking classes in the country. Whether you want to conquer kimchi, homebrew how-to, go pro or simply sit at the counter of one of the world’s top authorities on Indian or modern American food, this year the kids shouldn’t be the only ones excited about starting school.

Julie Sahni’s Indian Cooking School
One of the world’s foremost instructors of Indian culinary techniques—her Classic Indian Cooking was named one of “six most important all-time cookbooks” by the Times—PBS star Julie Sahni lives at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. Her hyper-intensive $1,300 to $1,795 courses—two to three and a half days for just three students max—are disciplined studies of the country’s cuisine, and can be focused by students in advance.

Ger-Nis Culinary and Herb Studio
A certified master gardener with California roots—her bio reads “Aries since 1973″—Nissa Pierson runs both this new high-tech Gowanus space and Jersey’s Ger-Nis International, which specializes in organic produce distribution and its own greenhouse-grown herbs. Her $40 to $50 classes for kids and adults—some taught by guest chefs from the likes of Franny’s—naturally focus on what’s fresh: Think workshops starting with a trip to the Greenmarket.

Brooklyn Fare
The $95 “classes” in the kitchen of this specialty grocery are explicated nightly dinners by chef Cesar Ramirez, a former top toque at Bouley. Make a reservation—which can take months to procure—and Ramirez goes over the making of his four-course, market-driven meals for a dozen lucky diners (BYOB). No notepassing in class, please: He’s known both for serious food (bluefin toro in mustard-soy, fried veal brains with a smoked paprika sauce) and his seriousness in the kitchen.

Brooklyn Kitchen Labs
This multipurpose Williamsburg culinary mecca—it’s home to a killer kitchenwares store, Tom Mylan’s butcher shop and a source for homebrew equipment, whole grains, bulk olive oil and Amish Country produce—offers some of the most cutting-edge DIY cooking classes in the country in a converted warehouse in the shadow of the BQE. Want to learn from true artisans how to pickle, make jam, break down a whole duck or ferment real kraut in a crock? This is the place.

Home Cooking
These days Brooklynite Jennifer Clair also teaches in Manhattan or Hudson Valley training kitchens, but her real specialty is still house calls: She or a staffer will come to your own kitchen for small, hands-on classes ($300 to $400) or even make-your-own-dinner parties. You buy the groceries in advance and work with one of the chefs to develop your own coursework, or pick from dozens of multicourse menus like cooking with fall produce, roast chicken dinner, French bistro or fish.

Purple Kale Kitchenworks
As you might gather from the name of her culinary training program, caterer and former restaurant chef (Rose Water, Savoy) Ronna Welsh has a passion for ingredients, and her customized workshops and classes, held at your house or hers, guide you in creating simple but flavorful meals based on what’s best—or just what’s in your fridge at the end of the day. Visit her blog on prepping homemade pantry essentials.

Kingsborough Community College
The Department of Hospitality and Tourism at CUNY’s Manhattan Beach campus has the real deal: a two-year associate’s degree in culinary arts or a certificate for those already holding a bachelor’s (both for a price tag below other city options). There’s also an on-campus restaurant, a student-run catering outfit, internships in local restaurants and—most enticing to anyone hoping to sell fudge at the Flea—a product incubator for fledgling food businesses.

CreativeCooks.us
Some school kids conquer soccer or piano, others master knife skills. Creative Cooks offer $85 fall Friday workshops, two-hour preschool sessions ($450 per semester) as well as after-hours programs for elementary kids who, by session’s end, make their own dinner. If your tots go to one of two schools in Brooklyn Heights, they’ll even get picked up at 3:00 p.m.

Beer Table
Studying’s always more enjoyable over a craft pint at a local gastropub, so hit the tiny Table for an excellent roster of subjects like a foraging trip through Prospect Park, a panel on food jobs, a local honey tasting, and a night exploring cheeses, beans and grains. Most classes are $35, and the proprietors are usually on hand to pair beers as tasteful as your subject matter.

New York City College of Technology
Based in Downtown Brooklyn, City Tech’s hospitality management degree program—you can start with an associate’s degree in hospitality management and go on for a bachelor’s in technology—is designed to think beyond jobs in the back of the house. As a result, it includes everything from culinary, beverage and pastry training to classes on sales, marketing and management.

Growing Minds: Master gardener Nissa Pierson, at the head of the table above, launched new culinary classrooms at a lofty space in Gowanus.

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Rachel Wharton is the former deputy editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She won a 2010 James Beard food journalism award, holds a master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University, and has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and reporter. A North Carolina native and a former features food reporter for the New York Daily News, she edited the Edible Brooklyn cookbook and was the co-author of both Handheld Pies and DiPalo's Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy. Her work also appears in publications such as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Saveur.