Blogs > Cooking from Scratch

Chef Stacy believes that cooking from scratch and using the best ingredients are the secrets to preparing delicious and memorable meals. She has created dozens of classes for the home chef and teaches students how to master culinary techniques and recipes in just one session. Read on to see what she's dishing up for The Oakland Press today....

Monday, July 19, 2010

Celebrate the Chef in You

I came to Holiday Market almost four years ago with a very specific mission – to teach people to cook and think like professional chefs. Sounds, easy, right? Surprisingly, it is much more difficult than I thought it would be! My boss, Tom Violante, Jr. is an extraordinary person (I mean that in all sincerity, not just because he sometimes reads my blog) who leads with vision and an innate understanding how to support the people who work for him.

Mirepoix was Tom’s idea, and a brilliant one at that. The entire concept was something that he had been thinking about for a while, and one day, we met to talk about it. It took me several months to wrap my mind around what he was asking me to do. I’m incredibly literal and specific and Tom is into “the big picture”. I, being a complete pain in the ass, gave him the run-around for a while, since I didn’t quite see the opportunity in its entirety (which was incredibly dense on my part). Finally, Tom called me out (if you know me, this earns you major respect in my book) and I took the job. Subsequently, it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

So here we are, almost 4 years later, our cooking school past its infancy and growing pains. After some trial and error, I’m now blessed with a staff of incredible chefs and assistants, and I can finally breathe just a little bit easier. Still, I’m not ready to rest. The business of professional cooking is honestly, a brutal one. My own father once owned a restaurant and still says that the happiest day of his life was the day he sold it. My dad is a tough guy, so if the restaurant business gave him hell, that’s saying something.

We teach all kinds of classes at Mirepoix, from knife skills to couples classes. At the outset, each class was formatted in a way that offered something for all ability levels, so that no matter how unskilled or advanced you were, we had just the right recipe project for you. My original vision for Mirepoix was to offer professional culinary instruction for the person who longs to cook like a professional, but doesn’t have the time to invest in pursuing a culinary degree.

Realizing this vision has taken time, but we have now grown to the level where I can finally offer 3 distinct categories of classes; open ability (the same format we’ve always offered), theory-hungry (beginner to foodie- but an obsession with food theory is a must), and advanced.

This month, we introduced a new series called, “What I Learned in Culinary School…”

This series is designed for the student who may be curious about professional cooking, but not sure if it is right for them, or, the student who longs to attend culinary school, but doesn’t have the time or resources to make that dream a reality (this fits into the “theory-hungry” category). Our first class, “Boot Camp” was last night. Each class in the series is limited to 8 students because the level of instruction is much more intense than our other classes.

Our agenda last night focused on basic knife skills, very basic butchery, and stocks. We discussed the theory of cooking and explored all of the little details that are essential for success in the kitchen, whether you’re a novice or an accomplished foodie. After over 600 classes taught at Mirepoix, this was far and away my favorite.

Building on what we learned last night, our next class will focus on using stocks to make sauces. The lessons are taught straight from our textbooks and notes from our days as eager culinarians at Schoolcraft College, making the agenda for each class very ambitious. Starting in October, I will be offering an advanced series for people who are looking for something even more intense. This series will also be limited to only 8 students.

Moving into this new phase of development is incredibly satisfying and exciting. As excited as I am about the two new class categories, you have my word that our commitment to excellent instruction, great tasting food, and a friendly and fun atmostphere will still be a part of our curriculum, and our core category of classes will not fall by the wayside with this new chapter.

We have an unbridled enthusiasm for teaching the home gourmand how to cook like we do. We are technique driven – not recipe driven, passionate about food I love the personal touch that we add to the experience. Those things, as long as I am here, will never change. In the meantime, though, if you’ve been dying to celebrate the chef in you, but didn’t know how, consider signing up for a few of the classes from the Culinary School series.

Also, don’t forget about our recipe contest! To learn more about the contest, click here.

All entries must be emailed to me at Good luck!

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