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Cooking Classes: Macy's Culinary Studio

By Lisa Shames in Food on Jul 10, 2007 5:30PM

rsz_macys.jpgA funny thing happened to Chicagoist during cooking classes at Macy’s Culinary Studio: We discovered we are sorely lacking in the patience department. Here we thought we were simply going to improve our culinary skills, and then we ended up with a little self-discovery lesson along the way. Blame it on the heat coming from the two stoves or the wine we sipped between chopping, either way, we learned fairly quickly that a watched pot never boils. Really.

Opened in 2004, back when Macy’s was known as Marshall Field’s — sigh — the 4,200-square-foot state-of-the-art culinary studio offers a fairly extensive range of cooking classes, including demonstration- and participation-type classes for adults and kids. There are wine tasting demos, too, as well cookbook signings. The Macy’s Culinary Council includes a lot of big-name chefs, including our own Rick Bayless and Gale Gand, although don’t expect them to be teaching a class any time soon (Chicagoist thinks the 15 chefs possibly lend a hand in class development, plus the poster-size photos of them scattered throughout the culinary studio in their starched chef whites definitely adds some inspiration when the actual cooking begins).

rsz_rsz_macys2-1.jpgWhile most of the offered classes are a one-shot, three-hour deal, ranging in price from $45 to $75, we decided to go for the more thorough approach and opted for the five-part series, “Professional Approach to Cooking Basics.” A steal, we thought, at $250, and even more of a bargain when you consider that includes five meals and the aforementioned wine. Unlike us, instructor Craig Priebe, a certified executive chef, has plenty of patience, which he put to good use as he led the 12 students through vegetable, fish and seafood cooking courses (stocks and soups, and meats follow, with an elaborate menu for the fifth and final class). In addition to mastering the recipes in class, Priebe also hopes that students “spin it into their own homes, cooking more efficiently and with greater tastes.”

Here’s a brief summary of what we learned so far: vegetables are really the foundation of cooking, lending aromatic qualities to the proteins they’re paired with; keep your non-knife-holding hand in a claw-like position to prevent cutting off a fingertip; beware of slimy fish with cloudy eyes that smell fishy; and when pan-searing fish, only turn once when it naturally releases itself from the pan. We also learned that this class series is definitely not the place to meet a man — there’s only one, and he’s taken — instead we plan on hanging outside the “Real Men Wear Aprons” course.

Macy’s Culinary Council is located on the seventh floor of Macy’s on State Street, 111 N. State St., 800-265-COOK.