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Reinventing the Meal: Home Cooking Classes

Reinventing the Meal: Home Cooking Classes

Jeni Ruisch

Have you ever stared into the cooler at the grocery store, wondering how the hell those cellophane-wrapped packages somehow morph into a colorful and fragrant meal?

Do your culinary endeavors turn into Pinterest fails, despite following the recipe to the letter? Curious as to why your bacon is never crispy, but only burnt? Sounds like you could use some professional help.

Lucky for you, not all heroes wear capes. Some of them wear aprons.

Olivia Tipton is the lead Research and Development chef at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, one of the folks who make all Jeni’s ice cream dreams into a reality, by researching and sourcing ingredients and experimenting with products and techniques until they are the perfect creamy concoction you find in the giant buckets at the scoop shops and on shelves. A Dayton native, she trained at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island to obtain the culinary master skill set that she now hopes to spread around the capital city. While at JWU, Tipton was a student teacher, and lead community cooking classes offered by the university to the public. There, she discovered a love of teaching. And she’s damn good at it. Stock & Barrel got to sit in on one of her home classes, and we can tell you, she’s great at communicating her expertise to those of us who have more questions than notches in our chef belts. Using approachable language and deft demonstrations of her own proficiency, Tipton helps her students navigate various techniques on their own terms as they journey through a recipe together.

Her biggest motivator for in-home classes is that she wants people to be comfortable in their own kitchens. She brings just a few spare items with her to her visits, hoping to show the client how to work with what they have. While most of the culinarily-challenged public may not own a zester, for example, they likely have a cheese grater that can perform double-duty. During the planning process, Tipton communicates with her client about their goals for taking the class. She finds out if there is a specific cuisine or dish they want to make, if they want to learn a particular skill or cooking technique, or maybe focus on healthy cooking. After honing in on their goals, she comes up with two to three menu options that encompass them. The client chooses from the list, and Tipton creates her lesson plan. After checking with the client to make sure they have the staple pantry items necessary, she purchases everything else needed for the meal and brings it to their house. The goal is to make it as easy and stress-free as possible for the client. A standard class lasts about two and a half hours and costs $60 per guest, while advanced classes will run you $75. The cost is all-inclusive, all the way up through the ingredients for your meal. In a standard 2.5 hour class one dish is created, and students will learn two to three major cooking techniques. Advanced classes are longer, cover more in-depth techniques, and may result in more than one dish (such as an entree and dessert). Be sure to ask about her super-secret onion dicing technique.

Once the class is rolling, students find themselves gently guided through knife skills, and learning intricacies of ingredients. Tipton has lessons built into the recipe process, and students parlay with questions that naturally come up along the way. In the age of Pinterest and The Food Network, the pendulum has begun to swing back toward the recognizance that you can’t just Google an education. Tipton and her mental library of reference material can take some of the sweat out of planning, pick the right ingredients, and place students light years ahead of searching “How to cook chicken.” And she can she can do it all in the most welcoming atmosphere one could think of: Your own home. 

To inquire about home cooking classes, email Tipton directly at [email protected]

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