Kiss the Chef: Hot, Healthy Cooking Classes for Date Night

Give a voice to the voiceless!

It’s time to rebrand the word health. Let’s remove all things banal, boring, uptight and straight-laced about it. From now on, healthy will equal hot. As in vibrant, fresh, alive, active, vital, sexy and adventurous. Kiss the Chef Hot & Healthy Cooking Classes for Date Night

 

Activities are hot right now. Classes are all the rage. In short, getting off your butt and doing things in this great city has once again become cool. Enter date night. It’s no longer enough to suggest the age-old, snooze-inducing, “Let’s grab a drink.” Put this suggestion forth and you instantly blink boring — not creative enough to unearth something edgy and unique to do, or worse, not confident enough to hold your own sans liquid courage, or maybe not dynamic enough to call yourself a citizen of the ever-stimulating metropolis you inhabit (aka unworthy).

It seems, while getting sucked into our increasingly digitally-connected times, we somehow finally remembered that it’s doing things together that bonds us, builds memories, shows off our partner’s pleasantly unexpected side, makes you blush, makes him laugh, and could, quite possibly, ultimately make you want to tear each other’s clothes off.

Recently, my guy and I took a cooking class. We had a ball. After painting with wine, comedy clubs, tennis courts, ice-skating rinks, High Line walking and ferry riding to the BK Ikea, it seemed the natural next step. Turns out there’s a cooking class for every technique you want to master, every global cuisine imaginable. What’s more, it’s a supersly way to inject a dose of what I’ll call “healthy awareness” into your relationship. I’m one of those folks (we Virgos can’t help it!) who has to watch the doling out of healthy living “tips” and “suggestions.” So a dab of go-and-watch-don’t-tell is a good thing.

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(Just in case you are curious, studies have linked more meals outside the home to more weight gain, overweightness and obesity. A 2007 Journal of Obesity analysis found those who consumed 25 percent or more of total daily calories from foods or beverages outside the home were also more likely to be sedentary. What’s more, up to 75 percent of the sodium in the average American’s diet is from salt added to processed and/or restaurant foods. (Excessive sodium leads to high blood pressure, thereby increasing risk of heart disease and stroke.) When eating out, you have no clue how much fat, sodium and sugar are dumped into what you’re served. You don’t determine portion size. It’s for such reasons the average American consumes some 3,436 mg of sodium every day — more than twice AHA’s recommended 1,500 mg limit. Point blank, cooking at home puts the reins of healthy back in your hands.

So, roll up your sleeves, wash your paws and tie on some aprons. It’s time to get back in the kitchen — oh yes, we mean cooking from scratch — and rekindle that loving feeling. Here, my top picks for cooking classes in New York and across the nation.

1. Cook & Go

What: Make a three-course meal at a 90-minute, guided do-it-yourself class

When: Variety of classes, days, times; check schedule

Where: Chelsea, 443 W. 16th Street

Price Range: $39 (each additional pair of hands in a group registering together, $15)

Reserve Your Spots: 212.920.4133

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A recent transplant to New York City from France (the company sprouted in Lyon some seven years ago), this class teaches you how to make one complete meal, from appetizer to entree and side to dessert. You can make and eat your appetizer and dessert on site, but cart your main dish home to cook (no sweat, you’re given instructions). This spot is hip, brightly decorated (you’ve likely passed the all-windows, peek-into space while Thursday night gallery hopping). Two cooking stations host two simultaneous classes. Menus are healthy (we made lime juice swordfish, a Mediterranean tomato and green bean salad, and chicken stuffed with arugula and mozzarella). Our meal was tasty (though dessert would have been better without any bread, especially white bread). Takeaways: We were instant converts to homecooked goodness and, most important, we suddenly saw cooking in a fun new way, more exploratory than obligatory. Hint: Look for the “healthy” meals being taught.

2. Whole Foods Market Bowery Culinary Center

What: Three-hour, hands-on classes hosting 8 to 12 students

WhenVariety of classes, days, times; check schedule

Where: Lower East Side, 95 E. Houston at Bowery

Price Range: $35 to $65

Reserve Your Spots: 212.420.1320, ext. 245

Truth be told, we tried and desperately wanted to get into these classes, but these babies are très popular and fill up quickly. All we scanned during our search were waitlists. Takeaways: Sign up early — like a month early. Designed with the urban cook in mind, the center’s offerings are largely geared toward beginners who’d benefit from a shot of confidence in the kitchen arena. They’re taught by chefs and food growers as well as Whole Foods in-store experts. It’s the supermarket chain’s only cooking school in the entire Northeast region (oh, New York). They offer two types of classes — demos and hands-on, the latter of which you’ll want, so you can really dig into the dough, so to speak. You’re divided into groups and eat the fruits of your labor as the class nears its end. Classes that caught our eyes: Better Basics, Intro to Greece, Cooking With Ginger, Vegan Autumn Harvest, World of Salads. They also teach knife skills, like most cooking schools, but the recipes-included classes seem way more enticing and rewarding.

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3. Sur La Table

What: 2.5-hour classes focusing on technique

When: Variety of classes, days, times; check schedule

Where: Hell’s Kitchen, 306 West 57th

Price Range: $59 to $250

Reserve Your Spots: 212.574.8340 in New York (800.243.0852 for classes nationwide)

Sur La Table offers a wide array of classes that center mainly on technique, including those specifically labeled Date Night. An experienced chef teaches you cooking fundamentals and, depending on the class, covers a wide swath of cuisines, from Thai to Texas barbecue. You whisk and chop with a small group of fellow students and taste each dish as it’s prepared (nice for those who show up to class hungry, fresh from a workout or the office). You’ll leave with printed-out recipes of the dishes made, as well as a list of equipment and cooking instructions to foster your at-home attempt. Remember, A for Attempt.

4. Natural Gourmet Institute for Food and Health

What: Cooking classes for the food-trend set

When: Variety of classes, days, times; check schedule

Where: Flatiron District, 48 W. 21st St., 2nd floor, between 5th & 6th Avenues

Price Range: $110 to $125 for four-hour classes to $895 for three-day intensives

Reserve Your Spots: 212.645.5170

Founded in 1977, this bastion of healthy lifestyle cooking hub focuses on what they call “health-supportive” cooking. If what’s motivating you to get back into the kitchen is the desire to get back to nutritious, good-for-you eating, this is absolutely your pick. While learning how to prepare hearty and nourishing meals, you’ll also explore the connection between what we put in our bodies and our health (of course I am loving this!). The emerging health nut within you will flip for classes with all those food-trending words in their names, such as Gluten-Free Intensive, Raw Food Intensive, Homemade Tofu, Fish Without Fuss and Essential Cooking and Cutting Techniques for the Vegan, Vegetarian, and Flexitarian.

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5. Institute of Culinary Education (ICE)

What: Cooking classes for those secretly wishing to be master chefs

When: Variety of classes, days, times; check schedule

Where: Flatiron District, 50 W. 23rd St., between 5th and 6th Avenues

Price Range: $120 for four-hour classes

Reserve Your Spots: 212.847.0700

If you need time to warm up to the über health-food trends emerging (and their vernacular), then kick off your culinary education with classic cooking from the pros at the International Culinary Education. Established in 1975, the school caters to some 26,000 cityites a year who partake in its hands-on cooking classes taught by ICE’s own renowned chef instructors. Look for the “Cooking for Couples” classes (Garlic Lovers caught our eye), which dabble in cuisines from Indian to Thai to Farmers’ Market Favorites. What’s cool about this? Students cook in the same start-of-the-art kitchens used by the pros. Plus, the institute offers an amazing array of 1,000-plus classes covering everything from chopping and dicing techniques to cuisines across the globe (Essentials of Tuscan Cooking sounds fabulous, right?). These ditties could transform apron-donning amateurs into master-chef hopefuls.

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