As we’ve been watching our beloved restaurants and food businesses struggle to survive these past two months, I’ve also been concerned for our wonderful cooking schools and many talented teachers who hold cooking classes. It has been an unexpected treat to watch chefs cook at home on Instagram Live and learn some new tricks, but there are some other more-structured classes happening online that do more good than just improve your cooking—they help keep other people afloat.
18 Reasons is Bi-Rite’s nonprofit community cooking school, known for offering all kinds of classes with professional chefs, sommeliers, local makers, and more. One of their most important programs is their free Cooking Matters program, a six-week-long series of cooking and nutrition classes for low-income communities throughout the Bay Area. During pre-Covid times, 18 Reasons gives away 12 meals’ worth of groceries to each of their Cooking Matters students. But based on what they’re hearing from their food-insecure students, they’re really having to step up to continue to increase their food distribution and offer weekly grocery deliveries, meals, and online food education to 300 hungry families until this crisis is over.
You can donate directly to 18 Reasons, become a member, and you can also support their mission by taking one of their almost-daily cooking classes they’re offering online, from dumplings to Hainan chicken rice to pasta-making! They have a variety of class times, structures, cuisines, and price points, and are even offering classes specifically for teens and classes for families. Check it out and do some good!
With so many chefs and cooks and bartenders out of work right now (or with severely diminished hours), you can help them out by taking one of their classes on ChefsFeedExperiences. Some classes are online/livestream, while others are hands-on and interactive. The best part? You can learn from chefs from all over—from Sardinia to Brooklyn—on how to make plant-based sauces or tikka masala! There is also some free programming, along with classes by request, so be sure to check out the entire offering. (Some chefs even donate part of their fee to charities and initiatives.)
Anyone who loves Italian food and cooking and lives in the Bay Area hopefully follows our local cooking goddess, Viola Buitoni. I have loved her classes at Civic Kitchen (they’re launching online classes May 14th!), and she also teaches for 18 Reasons. I’ve been immensely enjoying her nightly Instagram videos of what she’s making for dinner with her husband John AKA “the videographer” (here’s her IGTV channel), but she also offers virtual and interactive cooking classes (two-hour workshops) for up to eight people every Tuesday and Thursday from 4pm-6pm. To give more people access to her classes, she decided to keep them affordable at $45 per spot. Many of us are figuring out what to cook each week from CSA boxes, so be sure to look at her Thursday farm box-to-table cooking adventures inspired by a weekly vegetable delivery from FEED Sonoma, an organization of 80-plus family farms.
Another local chef I follow is James Stolich of Cook With James, who is known for his love of Spanish and Italian cuisines. He normally hosts hands-on cooking classes, but is beginning to host online classes (he recently made carbonara on ChefsFeed), and is also offering dinners-to-go. Follow him on Instagram to keep up with his latest news and classes.
My East Bay chef pal Jesse Bloom from Sacred Kitchen has been bringing people of all stripes together over food for over 20 years. He’s excited to bring his brand of flavor, fun, and connection to your living room during these most-unusual times. He’s starting up a second series of his Foundations of Flavor classes, and this time the four-week culinary odyssey will be inspired by four great food cities: Tijuana, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Fez. Each class highlights three culinary techniques that will elevate your home cooking—you can join for one class or do the entire series (if you do the full tour, you can bring a friend for one class!). Fridays (5:30pm-7pm), May 22nd-June 12th.
I know, many of us are hitting the sauce a bit more at home, so you may as well amp your cocktail game! Bar wizard and cocktail savant Christopher Longoria (Che Fico, 1760, Aziza) has been teaching some customized and highly interactive virtual classes for extremely limited groups (just 1-4 folks) based on your skills and what you have in your liquor stash at home. Message him on Instagram or via email for more, it looks like one of the coolest ways to spice up yet another evening at home.
Let Viola Buitoni inspire and elevate your Italian cooking skills. Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux.