Are You Epicure-ious?

By | July 13, 2009
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whisk stirs ingredients in copper mixing bowl

Whether you want, or need, to change your career, or would like to just give an edge to your already-sought-after dinner party invitations (you know who you are), there are a surprising number of opportunities to get in touch with your “foodie side” on Cape Cod. They range from a one-time demonstration where participants immediately consume the results, to a two-year degree from The Zammer Hospitality Institute at Cape Cod Community College, with a broad spectrum in between.

For many, the Zammer Hospitality Institute, the College’s response to the ever-changing needs of our hospitality and servicebased economy, is the pathway to a hospitality or culinary career. Students experience mentoring, internships and cooperative work opportunities; international cultures and cuisines; and benchmark sustainable and environmental business practices. Through ongoing generous support from Linda and William Zammer, owners of several successful area restaurants, the kitchen and dining room have been renovated, and a much-needed bakeshop has been added.
Program Coordinator and Executive Chef, Michael Otto, has a Culinary AA and a Food Services BA from Johnson and Wales in Providence, where he was a Teaching Assistant and Fellowship recipient. Chef Otto, currently the Executive Chef at Pocasset Golf Club, said approximately one-quarter of current students are “older adults” and that they are “taking the program to the next level to give graduates going into the hospitality business a valuable skill

Paul McCormick, a 1977 graduate celebrating 24 years as an instructor, noted that students are matriculating older but already have jobs in the field. One student, Maria Zombas, returned to school after a successful career in property management to learn all the facets of event planning. “At my age I want to know how things work. I enjoy the whole experience of coming back to school, and it’s a break from my twin 10-year old boys,” she chuckled. There is a Certificate Program in addition to the two year AA degree, which is more of a management degree, according to McCormick. Students are highly encouraged to choose a co-op work experience that is different from their usual experience or job.

Historic Highfield Hall in Falmouth offers all sorts of year-round programming, including culinary arts for ages 3-16 (in different sections) as well as adults. The in-house chef and director of the Culinary Academy, Lisa Holmes, is most interested in children and their relationship to food. Chef Lisa was inspired by her last book, Lunch Lessons, “to make an impact ‘on the ground’ with kids, to get out there and put some of it into practice here in New England where the growing season is short and kids don’t have the same opportunities they have out in Berkeley where my co-author, Ann Cooper, works in the public schools.”

Two of the Kids Culinary Academy programs offered in the summer are Rake and Bake (ages 5-9) and Green Teens (ages 10-13), where kids learn about cooking while tending a small organic kitchen garden designed and laid out by volunteers and local landscapers Paul Marini and Nellie Emigh. Holmes’ goals with these classes are to offer fun, healthy, seasonal food and a better understanding of how food is grown and how it can be used in the kitchen. The adult culinary programs benefit from the children’s organic garden surplus, and parents and siblings are learning too.

I attended an enthusiastic and experienced Young Epicurean Class. Many of these teens had taken classes for years and were very comfortable in the kitchen. Some hope to attend one of the tech schools and/or continue on for culinary degrees, while others just enjoy the camaraderie and the food. “It’s really fun, everyone is friends. Chef Lisa gives us some freedom, not telling us every step, so we’re getting ready for the real world, college and what’s to come,” Emily Connelly commented. Kids series (five or six classes) run about $150; adults pay $49 for a single class on topics such as Knife Skills, Fresh Italian Cooking, Quick & Healthy Dinners or Lunchbox Love. The ongoing Highfield Culinary Club runs in series of three, and adult participants take home meals for their families plus assorted bonus recipes.

Chef/owner Weldon Fizell of the Regatta in Cotuit offered intimate cooking classes on Saturday afternoons this past winter, where hungry souls learned how to make fresh pasta for ravioli, fettucine and ricotta gnocchi. In the hors d’oeuvre class, participants picked up easy, elegant ideas for parties, including different styles of crostini, fritters
and phyllo strudels. As this story was submitted for publication, he was offering Yeast Breads, Hot & Cold Soups and a Three-Course Luncheon Class. Classes usually cost $50.

Twice a month, chef/owner Peter Hyde of the Blue Moon Bistro in Dennis and former president of the Cape Cod Chapter of the American Culinary Federation hosts evening cooking classes at his restaurant to share some of his recipes and his take on fresh-from-thefarm Tuscan fare. Classes, $85 each, accommodate cooks who are just getting started, as well as those who are well on their way, and are divided between hands-on cooking (two hours) and eating and wine tasting (one hour).

The Wine List in Hyannis is a great place to attend a wine and food tasting or learn how to make certain dishes. Owners Jackie Kantrowitz and Tracy Anderson partner with private chefs such as Tracy Adams, who is skilled in vegetarian and gluten-free cooking, and restaurants like Pain D’Avignon, Island Merchant and The Bee-Hive to provide hands-on experiences in their kitchen. Chef Bob Calderone from The Barnstable Village Tavern presented an evening where participants learned to make mouth-watering Italian-inspired seafood appetizers. Prices range from free, for some of the wine and cheese tastings, to a recent wine dinner at $55 exclusive of tax and gratuity, with lobsters from Salty Lou’s and a chance to chat with a local lobsterman. The Flights and Bites series are $25 each and the cooking events are $45. They also do private tastings and events at their place or yours.

Chef Ralph Binder’s Mad Platter is tucked away behind Blockbuster Video at Mashpee Commons, but still his fans have found him. The Mad Platter is a place where you can grab a fabulous lunch (crispy succulent crab cakes with corn & bean salad is my favorite), order an event catered, or, in the winter and spring, take classes in Italian,
Seafood and Vegetarian “cookery”. Ralph is passionate about cooking and his classes are totally hands-on. He hopes that people “bring the love” when they attend one of his classes. The Italian Cookery class explores six or seven dishes including Chicken Saltimbocca, Eggplant Parmigiana and his secret marinara sauce. The classes cost $69,
including all ingredients. A discount is offered for a series of three or more; many people give them as gift certificates. Graduates bring home a bounteous feast AND a French toque to enhance future culinary expeditions.

Ring Brothers Marketplace on Route 134 in South Dennis puts out a terrific monthly newsletter (both online and at the store) that always includes tips on seasonal food preparation (i.e., asparagus tips and corned beef were in March). They frequently host special in-store events such as gourmet cooking demonstrations by their own Chef Don, wine tastings, food festivals and live bands. Some recent demonstrations included Potato-Crusted Salmon with Whiskey
Cream, Basic Seafood Cooking and Spring Strawberry Tart. They also partner with Scargo Café (on Route 6A in Dennis) on an ongoing basis for culinary demonstrations. Their website (noted below) is an excellent source of information for cooking tips and what is going on at their shop. All events are free.

Sandwich Community School offers culinary classes where you can discover home canning, vegetarian cooking, how to make sushi or how to stir fry Chinese dishes. The latter includes cutting and cooking techniques as well as special ingredients that make stir fry “as good as any restaurant”, according to the brochure. Another session highlighted Instructor Lisa O’Connor’s favorite recipes from inns and restaurants across the country. Classes are usually $39, plus a registration fee.

Both Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School in Bourne and Cape Cod Technical High School in Harwich provide a four-year high school program where students rotate among the dining room, cooking, baking and even working in the cafeteria. Upper Cape Tech partners freshmen with juniors, and sophomores with seniors, providing support for the younger students and mentoring opportunities for the older ones. More than 93 percent of the culinary students at this school continue on to the Zammer Institute, The Culinary Institute of America and Johnson & Wales. Cape Cod Tech has articulation agreements for receiving credits with Newbury College in Boston, Johnson & Wales, Zammer Hospitality Institute and Florida Culinary Institute.

Both tech schools have stellar restaurants that are open to the public. You really must go! The food is terrific and reasonably priced. Harwich’s Hidden Cove Restaurant serves lunch with no reservations, while the Canalside Dining Room in Bourne requires reservations. (508-759-7711 ext. 217).

Adult Education classes are offered at both and are, again, reasonably priced. At Cape Cod Tech, an 8-week course in Cooking with Organic, Unprocessed Whole Foods costs $100 for 8 weeks and is taught by Judy Welch, a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner. Dominic Bachand’s (he is a Cape Cod Tech instructor) Cooking Basics costs $160. At Upper Cape Tech you can take an sixweek Italian Cuisine Course from Tina Harkin, trained at the
Culinary School of Casa Ombuto in Poppi, Italy, for $149 plus $60 for food costs. Kenny Chiu, from Rice Bistro in West Yarmouth teaches a four-week course, Secrets to Asian Cuisine, for $119 plus $40 food cost, or a number of single sessions such as Stir Fry Techniques, Sushi,Secrets to Asian Barbecuing and Asian hors d’oeuvres for $44 each.

Needless to say, not every culinary opportunity is included herein. The intent is to provide some ‘food for thought’ on where to look in your town: check out gourmet markets, liquor stores, caterers or your community school. I would venture a guess that you could even ask your favorite chef to hold a cooking class for you and a group of friends on one of their closed winter nights. Bon appétit!


Blue Moon Bistro

Cape Cod Regional Technical High School

Highfield Hall

Ring Brothers Marketplace

Sandwich Community School

The Mad Platter: 508-477-0544

The Regatta Restaurant

The Wine List

Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School

Zammer Hospitality Institute

Susan Fernald grew up on Nantucket at the India House, her family’s summer hotel, where her father was the chef, and cocktail parties instilled in her, even as a child, that good food AND good company are complementary (though she didn’t know that word then). Writing for Edible Cape Cod, with its focus on community and sustainability, is one of her small joys.”

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