If venturing forth to a class site makes you squeamish and you are equally uneasy about letting strangers in on the fact you don't know your crepe suzettes from flaming pancakes, there is an alterative. You can host a cooking class for you and your friends in your own kitchen.
Victoria Frerichs specializes in teaching quick and easy gourmet meals and she does most of her work in private homes. If you don't have a pot to boil water in, you can get a group of friends together and hold a class in the commercial kitchen Frerichs uses for her catering business.
Frerichs emphasizes in all her classes that students can prepare a gourmet meal with regular, easily purchasable ingredients and the end result will look beautiful and taste good. In the hour and a half class time, Frerichs creates a complete meal, from appetizer to dessert, and insists her students can do the same.
"We don't do things that we feel people won't use," Frerichs said. "People don't have a lot of time. They don't want things difficult."
"I used to teach puff pastry. Nobody wants to know how to make that anymore," Frerichs said. "They want to know fun and exciting things to do with frozen puff pastry. We also used to teach how to make homemade pasta. Now with all the fresh and good dried pasta in the store, they want fresh new ideas in sauces." Classes are limited to 8 people and are suited for all skill levels. Cost is about $35 and students get to eat everything that is prepared.
Most of Frerichs' students are women who have cooked for their families for years and now find themselves wanting to do more than spaghetti and meat loaf. Their social position may have grown to the point where they don't want to have people over for pizza or hamburgers anymore, or the thought of making another peanut butter and jelly sandwich is enough to make them scream, Frerichs said.
"This is the group most interested in cooking now, the 45- to 55-year-range of people who are ready for something new," Frerichs said. "Yet, these people also don't have time. I'll see write-ups in cooking magazines that are nice, but most people wouldn't put that much effort into a meal."
But a fair share of Frerichs' clientele are beginning cooks too shy to go to a class. One recent privately held class included three women friends who were getting married soon and, to put it mildly, "didn't have a clue," Frerichs said.
"I had a class for them and we started with the most basic things, how to hard boil eggs, how to scramble eggs, how to boil pasta, how to get a chicken ready for the oven, how to roast. It was so comfortable. Being friends they didn't feel they couldn't ask any questions they didn't want to."
In Frerichs' children's classes, she teaches simple things like English muffin pizzas, scrambled egg burritos, chili and casseroles. Frerichs believes cooking bolsters a child's self esteem, especially latchkey kids, when they are able to nurture themselves after school or have a meal waiting for the family when they get home from work.
Like many cooking instructors, Frerichs is self-taught, having absorbed the contents of more than 300 cookbooks over the past 18 years and attending every available class in town. Before moving to Escondido three years ago, she hosted a radio cooking show in Sterling, Ill.
In Escondido, she opened a catering business and teaches classes. Frerichs also gives cooking demonstrations at various community and church groups in inland North County, but she will go anywhere in San Diego County to teach cooking.
The main thing Frerichs wants to impart to her students is to not be afraid of cooking. Learning to cook is not an exact science and you can take liberties, she said.
"So many people say, 'I couldn't do that. I could never learn. Everything I do turns out wrong.' Well, the comment I've heard more than anything from people who have taken my class is, 'You have taken the fear out of cooking. You gave me the courage to try something.' "
Taylor's Herb Garden
1535 Lone Oak Road
With 135 varieties of herbs at their fingertips, Luna Rose and Michelle Andre literally have a field day with their cooking classes. Since October, the two women have used the herb garden as their classroom and will continue into the new year teaching students how to use herbs to lighten up and spice up their cooking.
"Our idea is to get people back into the garden," Rose said. "We want people to grow their own herbs and start their own gardens at home."
The three-hour class begins with a culinary tour of the herb garden, and a discussion about what herbs are appropriate for what foods. With baskets in hand, students harvest herbs that will be needed for the day's menu.