Do you dream of holding a cozy dinner party for 15 serving homemade bites and fresh, signature cocktails but the thought of using a food processor, let alone assembling appetizers, makes you tremble? Do you long to impress your honey with a romantic three-course dinner made from scratch, but pick up greasy takeout yet again and mumble incoherently when he asks where it came from?
Hipcooks, a new cooking school recently opened in San Diego’s trendy North Park neighborhood, is offering classes that welcome novice cooks and aim to teach students the basics, along with all the fancy touches, in a fun, approachable way. With declarations including “Throw away the tablespoons” and “Free yourself from the recipe,” measuring ingredients in the studio is discouraged, but putting your own twist on a dish gets the green light.
Here, meeting new friends is as much a part of the experience as gaining confidence in the kitchen. Each class ends with everyone sharing the freshly prepared dishes on long benches around a family-style table. Carefully paired wine and cocktails are poured, conversation flows, and people keep coming back.
With established studios in L.A., Seattle, and Portland, the innovative company has a crowd-pleasing aim – to teach new and established cooks how to make cooking fun, simple and fresh. The class began a decade ago in the friends’ homes of founder and owner Monika Reti.
“It really started off as a dinner party for Monika and her friends, where they could cook together and then enjoy what they made, family style,” said San Diego Hipcooks manager Tristan Faw, in an exclusive interview with Food & Drink Digital. “It’s pretty neat.”
As well as discouraging students from the rigid routines that are an integral part of some cooking schools, Hipcooks deliberately uses products, ingredients, and appliances that won’t intimidate newcomers. Tools and appliances are quality, everyday products rather than pricey gadgets meant for experienced chefs only. Ingredients for the classes, too, consist of organic and sustainable meats, fish and produce, commonly purchased at everyday grocers like Trader Joe’s and Farmer’s Markets.
“We shop like a normal consumer would,” said Faw. “None of the ingredients I buy are only for restaurants and not attainable by the average person.”
Each night’s line-up features a range of tantalizing appetizers, main courses, and a dessert. Menus range from J’aime Paris featuring a unique twist on Coq au Vin with tarragon, grapes and bok choy and Pot de crème au Chocolat, to the Shortcut to Nirvana class serving veggie samosas, mango chutney and spicy fish curry.
Popular classes are repeated throughout the year, and tailored to the individual tastes of the surrounding neighborhood. While Portland residents have an insatiable craving for Thai, “I think the cocktail classes will do really well here,” predicts Faw.
San Diego’s love of farmer’s markets has also inspired the creation of a new class to entice market shoppers. In this way, the studios respond to the tastes and styles of their students at each Hipcooks locations. Local ingredients are also featured as the season permits, a practice that will encourage students to support local farmers and co-ops.
Ultimately, Hipcooks teaches students to celebrate the food itself, while slowing down and relishing the act of preparation, the ownership and empowerment that come from nailing the perfect, fluffy soufflé or roasted red pepper tart, and the company of good friends, old and new. With values like these, Hipcooks is a welcome addition to the city, and their teachers look forward to seeing new, eager faces in the kitchen.
Classes run for $55 including ingredients and a wine, beer or cocktail tasting with dinner. For more information or to sign up for a class visit sandiego.hipcooks.com or call (619) 269-8844.