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5 Tucson classes that will teach you how to cook like the pros

5 Tucson classes that will teach you how to cook like the pros

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If your New Year’s resolution was to learn to cook — or even if it wasn’t — there are plenty of opportunities to learn.

Whether it’s healthy eating, French-influenced cuisine, or just the basics, there are cooking classes that can satisfy.

Among them:

Chef Janos Wilder leading a cooking class at the Carriage House.


125 S. Arizona Ave., 615-6100,

Janos Wilder, a James Beard Award-winning chef and the mastermind behind Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails, opened The Carriage House two years ago.

Wilder often brings in such chefs as Maria Mazon of downtown’s BOCA Tacos y Tequila, Jonathan Landeen of Jonathan’s Cork and Jim Murphy of Kingfisher.

Wilder will teach the four spring classes, held once a month: City of Gastronomy — Foods of the Valley; From the Spring Garden; Healthy Eating; and Mother Sauces.

The City of Gastronomy class will feature recipes that embody the spirit of Tucson, such as a yellow-eyed bean and nopalito salad, frijoles maneados, habanero pesto-stuffed chicken, chile Colorado, green chile vinaigrette, and dark chocolate jalapeno ice cream. Classes start at $60 per person.

Next up: City of Gastronomy, 11 a.m. Feb. 24.

A loaf of bread from Cuisine Classique’s artisan bread class.


1060 W. Magee Road, 797-1677,

Mardi Burden began cooking when she was eight years old. She knew she always wanted to open her own cooking school. In 2004, that’s what she did.

Burden and her husband Bob opened the Cuisine Classique Cooking School to help people have more control over their diets.

“I try to tell people not to take it so serious,” she says. “When you follow that recipe, ease up. Recipes are just a great suggestion, but you can always make it your own.

“I’m trying to teach the fundamentals, and I stress cooking techniques and flavor, but we have a lot of fun.”

Class sizes usually consist of 12-14 people. However, Mardi also coordinates team building exercises which can teach up to 50 people. Mardi teaches several classes a week in a wide range of food topics and recipes, including pizza, Italian soup, and Artisan breads. Classes start at $59 and sell out fast.

Next up: Veggies-Starches, 1 p.m. Feb. 3.

Donna Nordin, former co-owner and executive chef of Café Terra Cotta, talks to her students during a cooking class.



Donna Nordin — the wildly popular chef and co-owner of the now-closed Cafe Terra Cotta — has extensive experience in cooking and a passion to go along with it. She started cooking when she was a child, but went on to attend Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She started teaching in 1973.

“I loved Le Cordon Bleu so much,” Nordin says. “I met a lady from New York who was standing in line for a demonstration class. She told me she taught classes from her small apartment in the city. It made me think that maybe I could try that when I went home.”

Nordin teaches two classes a week, usually focusing on Southwestern and French cuisines. Among the many recipes she will teach in coming months are shrimp pozole, lobster mac n’ cheese and marinated hanger steak. Classes are $70 per person and include three to four recipes, and lunch and beverages. Classes are limited to 10 people.

“I really try to make it easy for people,” Nordin says. “I don’t want people to be afraid.”

Nordin also says that if she could give one cooking tip, it would be to taste as you go.

“Some people will just follow a recipe and won’t taste it until the end,” she says. “But what if it needs correction? You have to make it taste good.”

Next up: Cornmeal popovers, marinated hanger steak, gateau marjolaine, 10:30 a.m. Feb. 28.

A cooking class at the Graden Kitchen. Photo by Gina Meyer.


2205 S. Fourth Ave., 621-0476,

In partnership with the University of Arizona School of Agriculture & Life Sciences, The Garden Kitchen brings food, fitness, and gardening education to the Tucson community.

“The mission is to bring the science and technology from the university to the people to improve their lives,” says Jennifer Parlin, an assistant in program. “We want people to bring these skills of gardening, nutrition, cooking, and exercise back home and implement them in their own lives.”

The Garden Kitchen is a non-profit organization. While most cooking classes cost a fee, she says, “all the profit goes back into our free education to the public. It’s a way for us to do more demonstrations and get more education out there.”

On the first Saturday of every month, activities are free. This can include free cooking demonstrations, lessons in soil and gardening, and body strengthening classes. Classes not on the first Saturday of the month start at $45 per person.

Examples of upcoming classes include couple’s cooking, sauces 101, nibbles from around the world, and pasta and gnocchi.

Classes are taught by either Parlin herself, who has worked in nutrition and culinary education for five years, or Chef Tom Kresler, who has owned several restaurants and studied in Italy for 10 years.

Next up: Couples Cooking Class, 10 a.m. Feb. 10.

Chef and instructor Samiro Elmi leads a class on Somali cooking at the Tucson Jewish Community Center.


3800 E. River Rd., 299-3000,

In the last year, the Jewish Community Center has offered several cooking classes, each focusing on different cuisines.

The JCC currently has upcoming classes specializing in bread bowls and dips, French appetizers, Chinese dumplings, cake decorating, Syrian cuisine, and Iraqi cuisine. These classes range from February to June.

“The J’s cooking classes not only showcase our commitment to being a welcoming venue for all people of all backgrounds, but also enables us to provide an educational experience for all who walk through our doors,” Director of Arts & Culture Barbara Fenig said in an email. “Each cooking class focuses on a different cuisine, cooking style, and cooking technique.”

Classes are taught by many different chefs, including AKA Deli & Bakeshop’s Executive Pastry Chef Jaime Lawhorn and cookbook author Emily Paster. Prices vary, but are usually $65 for JCC members and $70 for non-members.

Next up: Bread Bowls & Dips for Super Bowl Sunday, noon, Feb. 4.

Gloria Knott is a Tucson-based freelance writer.

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