Learn to be a ‘sage’ in the kitchen

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published March 1, 2017

 Future professional chefs and amateur cooks are welcome in culinary classes at Macomb Community College.

Future professional chefs and amateur cooks are welcome in culinary classes at Macomb Community College.

Photo provided by Sean Patrick, of Macomb Community College


METRO DETROIT — If you’ve got Wolfgang Puck dreams but just a Chef Boyardee skill set, you’re not alone.

In this major foodie town of ours, it can be daunting to think about where one can go to learn the cooking tricks highlighted online and on our favorite culinary shows. But if you look closely enough, there are plenty of free and easy ways to brush up on kitchen education all around metro Detroit.

It’s not surprising that the students enrolled in the culinary arts program at Macomb Community College know a thing or two about slicing and dicing. There are cooks studying to be professional chefs and an increasing number of participants just looking to brush up on their leisure cooking skills. Everyone is welcome in MCC’s kitchen.

But learning isn’t limited to the classroom, according to Scott O’Farrell, department coordinator of the Macomb Culinary Institute.

“The internet is a wonderful place to start. I tell my students to go online to get some ideas or some basic skills,” said O’Farrell. “The only concern I have is the accuracy of the information you receive.” 

Sometimes, when it comes to cooking tutorials on YouTube or social media sites, O’Farrell said recipes can be overly complicated or just plain wrong.

“Sometimes they’re trying to be so creative it just doesn’t make sense anymore. You’re adding all these (ingredients) in just to make it look like you’re making something interesting.”

The Food Network website is always a safe bet for reasonable recipes and basic skills tutorial videos — O’Farrell himself is a fan of culinary personality Alton Brown’s work. He also advises his students to get their hands on a copy of Cooks Illustrated, a magazine he thinks has a little something for chefs at every level.

“They’ve got dynamite recipes in there, and they’ll explain to you things like, for instance, not only the cut of meat they’re using but why they didn’t use five other cuts,” he explained.

While you’re searching the magazine racks for new reads, why not grab a copy of edibleWOW, the publication dedicated to all things yummy in Wayne, Oakland and Washtenaw counties. 

Or if you prefer live action to print, head to the Oakland County Farmers Market in Waterford, where edibleWOW hosts several cooking demonstrations throughout the year.

“We created the Cooking with edibleWOW series to showcase the market to the Oakland County community and those outside Oakland County, because we know for a fact our readers travel to farmers markets,” said edibleWOW publisher Robb Harper. “Going out to the markets is sort of like a staycation for them, and the markets offer a rich environment for our readership.”

While the magazine hosts events at markets around metro Detroit, the events held at the Oakland County market are particularly vibrant, Harper said, with more than 100 participants at each free demonstration.

“We bring in quality chefs that are educators and that are passionate about cooking,” he said. “The benefit to the chefs is that they get a new audience — they’re all basically hams and like to perform. And the markets love it because we draw so many people to shop, and people love learning something new, often with the produce available for sale right there at the market.”

Each event includes a question-and-answer session, usually a cup of coffee from Lake Orion’s White Pine Coffee, and, of course, a taste of the day’s lesson.

“Theses aren’t little tastes. It’s beyond that. It’s a large sample of what the chefs are doing,” Harper said. “So there’s something for everyone. The novice who just likes the tastes and the entertainment and the socialization will get something, and so will the cooks who want to learn. There’s this effervescent vibe; friendships develop, and it’s fun to see the same faces come back again and again and the new faces following them.”

To see a schedule of upcoming Cooking with edibleWOW events, visit edibleWOW.com or the Oakland County Parks and Recreation site at oakgov.com/parks