Are you ready to put down the foodie camera and step into the kitchen? The chefs at the Biltmore Culinary Academy have got you covered. From private lessons to boot camps focused on culinary technique, cooking classes offer an alternative to the traditional dining experience.
On a recent visit to the Academy, I joined a diverse group of South Florida Bloggers for a night of cooking, wine sipping, and a little competition. As we arrived, we were welcomed with a glass of champagne and a lovely spread of fruits, assorted nuts, and of course the Only Parmesan—the Parmigiano Reggiano. This 900 year old Italian cheese was the star of the menu.
And as we were eyeing the cheese wheel from our working stations, the chefs laid down the ground rules. With a full class (24 bloggers) we split into teams of four to prepare six savory dishes. The ingredients list ranged from Idaho potatoes, to pickled jalapeno, jumbo sea scallops and even crushed whole wheat crackers. Sprinkled here and there between dishes we were sure to include the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese; it was listed in every recipe. In addition, these six recipes will also be part of a new series of recipes from renowned chefs at the Biltmore Culinary Academy.
One of the six that had never before been prepared in the kitchen at the Culinary Academy was the Ricotta Cheese Potato Gnocchi served with Cilantro Butter Sauce. The surprise ingredient was in the sauce—the cilantro. My team and I were assigned this rich dish for the course. And feeling up for the challenge, we gathered up our ingredients and some sharp tools to get us started.
While teams geared up, the chefs are walking around the room to guide you through each step. For the gnocchi plate, our first task was to peel and mash the potatoes; easy enough, right? Well, it turns out there are different approaches to peeling a potato when it’s boiled versus when it is baked. This and other useful techniques are provided during the meal preparation. You will definitely want to take a writing pad with you because these two chefs have over 70 years of combined experience in the kitchen!
Next, we mixed together all of the ingredients to prepare the perfect dough—and base—for our gnocchi. It was interesting to observe the different team members as they each demonstrated unique skills. As one was chopping up cilantro, another was rolling the dough and cutting it into tiny pillow shaped bites that would become our meal. And all throughout the room, there was excitement, the sizzling sounds on the stove, knives on the chopping block, and definitely lots of wine being poured.
The evening drew to a close and each team began plating their dishes—and as is customary with the class—presented their dish to the group. As if the night could get any better, we are then able to try from each other’s creation. Each plate so different, but carrying with it distinguishable flavors and textures. We were all very excited to try each other’s dish (and secretly hoping ours was better).
One of the great benefits of the cooking classes is also that it provides an opportunity to bond with friends. Whether you’re planning a bachelorette party or colleague team building activity, there are lots of great options at the Biltmore Culinary Academy. Maybe next time you snap a picture of a meal it will be one prepared by your own hands.
The Biltmore Culinary Academy is located on 1200 Anastasia Ave in Coral Gables, FL.