Scientific brains have proven a link between the sense of smell and memory. That explains why a whiff of pumpkin pie turns us into a giggly, leaf-pile-jumpin' 6-year-old.

This autumn, forget aromatherapy for your frazzled grown-up nerves. Instead, turn to a fall roster of comfort-food cooking classes around town for some therapeutic smell-o-vision.

Now, you might guess the Bite Club's class craving was piqued by watching a gaggle of the Western Culinary Institute's chef wannabes stream through the plaster and plastic-choked atrium of its new digs. The Cordon Bleu school moved into the Galleria last week--threatening to turn our favorite downtown ghost mall from skank to swank in the next few months.

We took a peek at the school's two new restaurants set to open this week. One's a luxe, Bruce Carey-on-a-budget-styled dining room called Bleu; the other's a smaller, aqua-tiled hive, Cafe Bleu, which promises to sell the wares of the school's brand-new Patisserie and Bakery program. Add in sleek, hotel-like offices and two-floors of newly equipped kitchens and classrooms--double the space at WCI's old facility--and you've got one golden culinary opportunity. And you don't have to be buttoned up in a white jacket to learn.

Executive Chef Dan Brophy and his fellow WCI kitchen wizards have crafted a series of one-shot classes that let the public stir the stockpot. This weekend, create syrupy peaches and pickled beets in a Grandma-approved, water-bath Harvest Canning Class.

Brophy also shares one-pot braising basics, like coq au vin, osso buco and autumn soups in classes this month. "For a lot of people, it's the smell of bay leaves and onion simmering in a stockpot that signals the beginning of fall," he says. "For me, it's roasted winter squash with ginger and nutmeg."

For the home chef who's beyond the mirepoix basics, there's Shogren House guru Robert Reynolds' "apprenticeship" course beginning Oct. 13. Reynolds has schooled locals like Genoa's Cathy Whims and Navarre's John Taboada on the theory and execution of French cookery. This four-week class is designed to give savvy cookers the taste of a full-time program without, as Reynolds puts it, "the requirement of a bank loan."

Cranking the commitment level down a notch, sweet-toothers should nab Sur La Table's class roster, which includes two short morning lessons on making gooey cinnamon rolls from Rose's Deli and Bakery and mini-cheesecakes from dessert maker Alison Bitner this month.

On a real student's budget? Welcome fall with a yeasty three-hour tour of baguette shaping and the basics of sourdough cultures. This Artisan Bread Workshop is only $35 at Whole Foods Market's Salud! Cooking and Lifestyle School this Sunday. We can smell the bread baking already.

For class times and prices, contact Western Culinary Institute, 921 SW Morrison St., 219-9405, ext. 229.

For information on cooking with Robert Reynolds, visit

Sur La Table,
1102 NW Couch St., 295-9679.

Artisan Bread Workshop, Whole Foods Market,
1210 NW Couch St., 525-4343. 1-3 pm Sunday, Oct. 12. $35.