Starched Thighs And Charred Chilis

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Kitchen dramas? We've all had them, even the pros. The dramas turn out to be learning experiences -- at least that's what we tell ourselves.

As proof, we asked some of our favorite culinary luminaries to share their own cooking class tales. Let these be a lesson to us all.

-- Bonnie S. Benwick

ROSE LEVY BERANBAUM, baker and cookbook author:

I was teaching at Rich's Cooking School in Atlanta in August several years ago, and the demo kitchen was so hot my legs stuck together. In a moment of desperation/inspiration, I reached for what turned out to be the perfect solution -- and not just for my baking: cornstarch.

DUFF GOLDMAN, owner of Charm City Cakes in Baltimore and star of Food Network's "Ace of Cakes":

When I was a student at the [Culinary Institute of America] at Greystone [Napa Valley, Calif.] I was known as the bread guy because I worked at a bread factory after school. One of my teachers, an amazing bread baker, asked me to make 200 baguettes for a big American Culinary Federation conference. I was really paying attention, baked 'em all . . . they had a nice jump on them. They were beautiful. I was so proud of myself.

The next day my teacher came in and tore one in half to taste it. "Did you try one?" he asked. I'd forgotten the salt. I had to make another 200.

MARCELLA HAZAN, master Italian cook, teacher and author:

The only class I ever wanted to take was at Madame Chu's Cooking School in Manhattan.

Now I'm 82, but I was something like 45 at the time. I decided to go there because I found out I liked Chinese food very much. But after the madam went on a sabbatical, her staff didn't know what to do. Since they knew I made Italian food, they gave me a piece of paper with six names and telephone numbers -- Italian cooking references. Call these people, they said. So I said to my husband, "Americans, they are crazy!" He said to me, "You like to teach? You teach." I never took another cooking class, because I got too busy doing my own.

MOLLY STEVENS, food writer, editor and 2006 Cooking Teacher of the Year (International Association of Culinary Professionals):

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