Reviewing the Central Market Cooking School
IntroductionWhen the venerable H.E. Butt Corporation opened Central Market in Austin several years ago, little did we know that a grocery store would become a serious foodie tourist attraction, a popular local music venue, and a nationally respected cooking school, all under the same roof. The cooking school went through a series of transitions in its early years, but under the direction of Cathy Cochran-Lewis, it has become a major success story. That success is reflected in the bimonthly brochures that seem to feature the following recipe: a foundation of basic classes taught by personable Central Market staff chefs, generous servings of classes presented by local restaurant chefs and cooking teachers, and substantial main courses consisting of appearances by nationally respected chefs and cookbook authors. It works.
In preparation for this article, members of the Chronicle food staff (Mick Vann, Rebecca Chastenet de Géry, and myself) attended classes taught by some of the national stars Cathy Cochran-Lewis has lured to Central Market. The busy director scours the country for talent on regular trips to conventions held by organizations such as the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) and Women Chefs & Restaurateurs (WCR) in addition to events like annual Fancy Food Shows and the Symposium for Professional Food Writers at the Greenbrier. Thanks to her hard work and enthusiasm, the Central Market Cooking School has a great reputation nationally with the IACP and WCR memberships -- not to mention publishers who are now much more willing to make the Austin cooking school a stop on cookbook authors' promotional tours.
On a recent Saturday, I spent most of the day at Central Market attending classes presented by New York cooking teacher and award-winning cookbook author Nick Malgieri and Fetzer Vineyards culinary director and award-winning cookbook author John Ash. During sold-out classes, lucky Austin food lovers enjoyed this incredible smorgasbord of national talent along with me. In a two-and-a-half-hour power-baking marathon, Malgieri offered some very workable recipes that would fit nicely into any home baker's repertoire. During the dinner class, John Ash charmed the crowd with his sense of humor and plenty of Fetzer wine, all the while feeding them a delicious meatless menu accompanied by liberal doses of information about sustainable agriculture. Both classes offered worthwhile information, wonderful food, and enjoyable entertainment. What follows are Mick Vann and Rebecca Chastenet de Géry's evaluations of classes they attended.