By Kim Weisberg:

I recently attended a cooking class at Kitchen on Fire (motto: “if these two clowns can cook, so can you”). Founded in 2005 by chefs Olivier Said MikeC (pictured), and located at the Epicurious Garden in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto, Kitchen on Fire aims to demystify home cooking and entertaining using primarily local and organic ingredients.

My boyfriend and I had planned on rainy evening traffic and ended up arriving a half hour early, so we stepped downstairs to Mint Leaf, where we ordered drinks to take upstairs (the bartender was not fazed by our request, and simply told us to bring the glasses back after class).

The class we chose was “Cooking to Impress Your Date”, mainly because the menu sounded so good. For the first 45 minutes, the two chefs stood at the large cutting board (complete with tilted overhead mirror so we could see what was happening), explaining the dishes we were about to prepare. They were very thorough but, while it was informative, I could have done with less demo and more hands-on time.

The class was structured so that each food had its own station, and the 15-20 students could walk around, taking turns preparing the various dishes. This meant that we did not each get to prepare every dish — I think I would have rather had a smaller class and more time to prepare each dish individually. That said, it was fun to bounce around from station to station tasting a sauce here, building a salad tower there. The class had a very informal, friendly vibe that made the whole experience enjoyable.

Chatting to the chefs, it was clear they have a passion for sustainability. They favor Berkeley’s Monterey Fish Market for fresh fish and showed us how to adapt our recipes according to produce availability. They even teach a class on “cooking seasonally from the farmers’ market”.

The menu, just to make your mouth water, was as follows:

  • Canape of Endive, Smoked Chicken, Pear, Blue Cheese & Toasted Walnuts
  • Winter Fruits & Arugula Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette & Goat Cheese
  • Pan Fried Leg of Lamb with Rosemary & Garlic
  • Seafood Linguini with Saffron Sauvignon Cream Sauce
  • Banana Flambe with Rum Toasted Coconut & Pomegranate Molasses

It will be a long time before I forget the taste of that leg of lamb, in a white wine Dijon sauce… so tender, with just the right amount of tangy flavor. My favorite thing to make, however, was the Banana Flambe, as I never would have been brave enough to attempt this at home without first trying it in someone else’s kitchen.

To schedule a class, book a private cooking party (they’ll even come to your home), or for any other questions, check out their website.

This is the second in a series of Scouting Berkeley posts by Kim Weisberg, who lives in Berkeley. Read the first, on Ohmega Salvage, here.

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