Cooking classes help keep the lights on

October 15, 2013

Resourcefulness is key when running a restaurant. So many things are waiting to go wrong! And just when you think they won’t, they do. The seasonal ebb and flow of servers, kitchen help and, of course, customers, presents the biggest challenges to local proprietors. It’s amazing how many of our Rehoboth eateries tough it out over the winter instead of turning off the lights, barricading the doors and booking a flight to Puerto Vallarta.

Rehoboth Beach restaurateurs have figured out all sorts of ways to keep the lights on. One of the most popular ways (other than half-price martini nights) is to offer cooking classes. Food TV has generated a wave of interest in professional techniques, and a few extra bucks in the till can’t hurt, especially after the shoulder season gives way to true winter weather.

Last week’s article about the Sushi 101 classes at Stingray with the enthusiastic Chef Al Chu generated a number of emails inquiring about culinary instruction in general. Hobos’ equally enthusiastic head chef/owner Gretchen Hanson offers a 10-week program that not only schools her students in basic cheffing techniques, but also includes vegan and vegetarian cooking, tips for ongoing wellness, healthy shopping and critical label-reading. Gretchen has a knack for making vegan and vegetarian food taste good, and you’d never know that many of her dishes are devoid of dairy, certain oils and meat. I believe I could be a vegetarian if she were my personal chef. (Now there’s an image….) $250 buys all 10 classes in the series, or bring a significant other for a flat $400. See the lesson plan at Click “calendar.”

Delaware Restaurant Association award winner Hari Cameron always has something up the sleeve of his chef’s coat. At a(MUSE.) restaurant, you never know what he’s going to desiccate, smoke, slice, pound, mix or freeze at minus 322 degrees. What you do know is that it will be good. Hari uses the quiet of the off-season to lure fans into his world of molecular gastronomy (sort of like the Matrix, but without surround sound). Hari’s 2013 syllabus includes getting yourself pickled (with spices and vinegar, not alcohol…). Unfortunately that class has come and gone, but you can still learn about American Classics on Saturday, Nov. 2, and Holiday Favorites (with that unexpected Cameron spin, of course) on Saturday, Dec. 14. Meetings are $60 and last a couple of hours. You’ll take home a booklet of recipes and techniques, and top off the afternoon eating a three-course lunch with none other than the chef himself. Learn more at Click “menus.”

Seven more meetings remain in the fall and winter series of cooking classes at Nage restaurant. Topics include slow cooking, Sunday brunch secrets, and of course the magic behind the classic dishes that put Nage on the map. The Saturday morning meetings are $55 each, and you can buy a season pass of four for $180. Techniques are geared for beginning and intermediate skill levels, so there’s something for everybody. Go to and click “cooking classes.”

There’s no doubt that Norman and Eric Sugrue know something about running an eatery. After all, an in-season weekend seat at Salt Air, Big Fish Grill and Summer House can often be a hot ticket. Norman will share the secrets behind Big Fish Grill and Summer House menu items 16 more times over the 2013-14 off-season. Classes are $75, and the three-hour culinary adventure includes a filleting demonstration and a tour of the Big Fish wholesale operation. Find out more at Click “classes & events.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the popular (and free) cooking demos at Northeast Seafood Kitchen about 15 minutes south of Rehoboth in Ocean View. Each event has a theme and starts with a little cocktail hour to get you in the mood. Don’t worry; there are no chefs’ knives in your kit bag. Find out more by calling 302-537-1785.

It’s never too late to discover something new, so grab your credit card, your favorite apron and learn to do it like the big kids do it. Your dinner guests will thank you.

  • So many restaurants, so little time! Food writer Bob Yesbek gives readers a sneak peek behind the scenes, exposing the inner workings of the local culinary industry, from the farm to the table and everything in between. He can be reached at

    Masthead photo by Grant Gursky. Used with permission from Coastal Style Magazine.

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