Basic Cooking Classes§

writer: russell j.t. dyer; posted: June 10, 2014; revised: August 15, 2017; readers in past month: 1349

Chef Andrea the First Night
Chef Roberto Maurizio making Ravioli
Enjoying the Food

For several years now I have been making a considered effort to improve my cooking skills. First I focused on making well a few favorite dishes. Then I worked on some specialties, such as a rich lasagna. I’ve also improved my kitchen: an assortment of better pans and pots, better knives, and a variety of specialized kitchen tools. This included improving my presentation in the way of nicer serving dishes and tableware.

I’ve gotten to be fairly good at cooking, but I have gaps in my understanding and skills. There are things I’m still uncertain about how to do. I still need to understand what is going on when cooking meets and other items. I need to improve my technique in using knives and other tools in the kitchen. Basically, I’ve gone as far as I can go and I need help getting to the next level.

This month I started attending a cooking classes in Milan, as a school called Congusto. It’s a basic course in classic cooking, which in Italy is Italian cuisine. Each class is three hours long. There are two classes a week and twelve students. Since my Italian language skills aren’t very good, it has been difficult understanding everything. But I’m listening closely to the teachers, asking straightforward questions to clarify, and observing plenty to be able to understand and learn. It’s been the most fun I’ve had this year.

The first couple of nights, we cooked things as a group, sometimes just watching the teacher. He would assign us tasks to do (e.g., chop some vegatables or saute some meat), and then he would pull the receipe together. By the third night he started assigning recipes to small groups of three or four of us to work on together. Then he would roam the room and give us instructions as we needed them.

When I registered for the course, there was the option of taking five or ten classes for this course. I paid for ten courses, but I suspect that some of the students won’t continue beyond the first five classes. Starting next week there should be less students. I will miss those who leave, but I imagine will get more attention from the teacher. I’m hoping that we may be assigned the duty of making an entire receipe alone, or with just one other person. That can be a little disconcerting, but I think I will learn more that way. The class room has twelve stove tops and several ovens. So it’s possible for more individual training.

The first two nights we made fresh pasta and pasta dishes. We made four recipes of pasta with different sauces the first night. The second night we made a few recipes of stuff pasta and a lasagna. The next pair of classes we started on meats: beef, veal, rabit, chicken, etc. Next week we will focus on seafood. One of the nice aspects of this course is that we eat everything we cook. If you factor in all of the good food, it’s better than going to a restaurant because you get to learn how to make everything.

The teachers are very good. We’ve had two instructors: Andrea Bevilacqua and Roberto Maurizio. Chef Andrea has cooked at Antica Trattoria Bagutto di Milano, a restaurant founded in 1284. It’s the oldest in Italy, located just outside of Milan, and second oldest restaurant in Europe. Chef Roberto is sometimes seen on Italian television cooking shows as a guest chef. There is also a woman named Giovanna who scurries around cleaning constantly while we cook. It’s nice not having to do that.

After I complete this basic course, I can register for more courses, more intermediate and advance courses. The next lengthy course like this one is on pastries. That might be interesting, but I need help mostly with cooking, not baking. The school also offers professional cooking courses and private lessons. There are many possibilities. If I can afford the cost and time, I may continue taking courses for quite a while. I have no professional aspirations. It’s just fun and I would like to cook much better than I do now.