Cooking School Aims to Feed Passion

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By Nedra Rhone

A wealth of foodie shows on cable television, a boom in farmers’ markets and the tough economy all are spurring renewed interest in an ancient art: cooking.

While some people may cook more for themselves out of necessity, it soon becomes a fun diversion for many. And Cyndi Sterne, owner of a new cooking school in Sandy Springs, hopes to capitalize on the trend.

“There is a real push to eating locally and healthfully,” said Sterne, creator of the recently opened Yes, Chef! Culinary Events. “We want to show people it is just as easy to do this at home.”

Two kitchens stocked with the latest appliances, including ranges and ovens by Viking and Wolf, and Subzero refrigerators, serve as classrooms where Sterne, chef Jessica Ray and visiting local chefs teach students to make dishes such as Harry Potter inspired Pumpkin Juice (timed to the release of the final Potter flick), along with selections from Julia Child’s greatest hits and meals to impress your mother-in-law.

One course will take students on a trip to the local farmers’ market before heading back to the kitchen to create a meal with their finds. Another on designing gift box cakes features Joshua John Russell of Highland Bakery and the Food Network.

“The classes are unique and really focus on what the customer wants,” said Ray, which is why the lineup includes eclectic classes such as making face masks from food and Hal’s Book Club in which participants read a book before class then come in for discussion while preparing the foods featured in the book.

Cooking classes range from $35 to $85, with a five week culinary boot camp priced at $350 and a camp for kids and teens (age 7 and up) for $295.

Everything from the types of classes to the arrangement of the classrooms is designed to be relaxing and create intimacy between the students and the chef.

“When you are relaxed everything comes to you naturally,” Sterne said. “It doesn’t have to be perfect. [Food on] the Food Network looks that way because they have a food stylist.”

Sterne, a self-taught chef formerly of Marcus Jewish Community Center, began cooking as a pre-teen when her mother assigned her the job of prepping meals for her father Hal during his recovery from surgery. Sterne learned how to design menus and efficiently shop for food while developing a passion for cooking.

When she decided to branch out on her own, it seemed appropriate to name the school after her father. She hopes Yes, Chef! Culinary Events will serve as a one-stop-shop for all cooking needs from instruction, to cookbooks and cooking tools available in the retail area, to kitchen design services offered by Atlanta-based Sierra Kitchens.

“At other schools, you sit and take a seat at the counter,” Sterne said. “Here, everything you see, you can experience in your own home.”

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