In a city where eating is virtually a religion and chefs its deities, many of us harbor fantasies of baking the perfect croissant, hand-pulling noodles and creating our own porchetta from scratch. But those of us trained only in the culinary arts of can-opening and George Foreman grilling need a bit of extra help to realize those dreams of Michelin stars and appearances on the Food Network. You could always join the gang of pudgy kids in chefs' whites smoking outside Le Cordon Bleu. But if you don't have $30,000 and a year of spare time, there are plenty of weekend, evening and short courses available around Portland to help kick-start your career as a celebrity chef.
Portland's Culinary Workshop
807 N Russell St., 512-0447, portlandsculinaryworkshop.com.
[CLASSACOPIA] When the Oregon Culinary Institute stopped running its weekend classes, the city lost one of its best and most comprehensive nonprofessional cooking programs. Fortunately, one of its instructors, along with a former Western Culinary Institute staffer, has picked up where OCI left off, creating Portland's Culinary Workshop, with the stated mission of providing "classes for the masses." The shiny new dedicated facility on North Russell Street holds a diverse and ever-growing array of hands-on classes, covering everything from gluten-free baking to handmade baby food to breaking down a whole chicken.
Class cost: $25-$65.
In Good Taste
231 NW 11th Ave., 248-2015; 6302 Meadows Road, Lake Oswego; ingoodtastestore.com.
[COOKIN' FANCY] Part cooking school, part dinner party, the classes at In Good Taste typically culminate in a chi-chi sit-down meal, complete with wine and servers. Hands-on classes often focus on single themes or cuisines, such as a wine country spring lunch or an Indian wedding feast. There are also longer cooking series that run one night a week for six weeks—the current one is being taught by former Genoa chef Adam Kaplan. Ooh-la-la.
Class cost: $45-$110 for single classes, $525-$595 for cooking series.
3808 N Williams Ave., No. 120, 281-0614, hipcooks.com.
[NO RULES] Don't let the Man dictate how you simmer your curry: This L.A.-based chain of cooking schools believes in freeing home cooks from recipes and measuring equipment, focusing instead on flavor combinations, technique and guiding principles. Hands-on classes include ethnic cuisines and catering cocktail parties, using organic ingredients where available, and end in a communal meal. Sounds groovy.
Class cost: $55.
Caprial and John's Kitchen
609 SE Ankeny St., 239-8771, caprialandjohnskitchen.com.
[FOR VOYEURS] The former owners and chefs of Caprial's Bistro, Caprial and John Pence run demonstration-only classes in the space also known as Abby's Table. Students watch their meals being prepared—with themes including "cure your own ham" and "Japanese-inspired dinner"—then dine on the results. Can you actually learn to cook just by watching? Maybe not, but $50 is a pretty great price for an intimate chef-prepared four-to-six-course dinner.
Class cost: $50.
Robert Reynolds Chefs Studio
2818 SE Pine St., 233-1934, thechefstudio.com.
[FOR FRANCOPHILES] French-trained chef Robert Reynolds runs intensive eight-week courses for professionals and serious home cooks (want to know whether you count as "serious?" Ask yourself: "Am I willing to drop $9K on culinary training?") on the finer points of regional French cuisines in his small studio in Laurelhurst. Limited to six participants at a time, students can study full-time or just in the evenings, or take the course spread out over eight months. There are also shorter courses throughout the year—Paley's Place pastry chef Kristen Murray has led several this year.
Class cost: $9,000 for full-time course, $2,250 for evenings only.
Portland Meat Collective
Various locations, pdxmeat.com.
[BLOOD AND GUTS] Founded by former Portland Monthly editor Camas Davis, the Portland Meat Collective teaches pig, beef and lamb butchery, sausage making, "home pig slaughter" and other carnivorous classes, with the help of local meat masters like the Country Cat's Adam Sappington, Park Kitchen's David Padberg and Grain & Gristle's Ben Meyer. Learn how to kill your own chicken and cook it up into coq au vin.
Class cost: $65-$300.
The Merry Kitchen
5202 NE 72nd Ave., 946-8357, themerrykitchen.com.
[CHILD LABOR] The Merry Kitchen is a kids-only cooking school run by former Sur La Table instructor Julie Merry. This school goes well beyond brownie mix and Rice Krispies treats, with classes including bento, fondue, tacos and French cuisine. The school also runs a series of four-day summer camps, where tots as young as 6 can learn regional American cuisine.
Class cost: $25-$55.
Behind The Scenes
[CONFIDENTIAL KITCHENS] Several restaurants around Portland run classes in their down time. Iorio chef Chris Thompson teaches classes on everything from how to make his gnocchi to re-creating a meal he cooked for Pavarotti (912 SE Hawthorne Blvd., ioriorestaurant.com; class cost: $75-$100). Nuestra Cocina holds monthly classes on the regional cuisines of Mexico with chef Benjamin Gonzales and sous chef Raymond Anderson (2135 SE Division St., nuestra-cocina.com; class cost: $50 and up). Trebol chef Kenny Hill runs hands-on cooking classes in Oaxacan cuisine the first Sunday of every month (4835 N Albina Ave., trebolpdx.com; class cost: $75).
For Sugar Junkies
[SWEET TREATS] The artisans behind the tiny treats at Two Tarts Bakery let regular folks in on how to make many of their signature cookies, as well as ingredients like lemon curd, caramel and preserves (2309 NW Kearney St., tartnation.wordpress.com; class cost: $25). Hillsdale's Baker & Spice teaches the art of making pies, cakes, cookies and chocolates—and how to decorate them—out of its baking supply store, SweetWares. Guest instructors like chef Greg Higgins, chocolatier John DePaula and baker Kim Boyce have also dropped in to run classes (6306 SW Capitol Highway, bakerandspicebakery.com/sweetwares; class cost: $25-$75).