Taking a Pasta Class at Mozza01.14.11
There's a well known restaurant in L.A. called Mozza (and its sister restaurant, Mozza2Go). I've eaten there -- it's delicious. Recently, the New York Times did an article on the restaurant and mentioned that they offered pasta and pizza classes [link]. I've taken cooking classes and had cooking lessons before, but never in this context -- from an actual restaurant -- so I just had to try it out.
It was a relatively small group of us -- maybe 10 people, gathered around an enormous kitchen. It wasn't an industrial kitchen per se -- more like one of those kitchens that you see on a cooking show on the Food Network. Beautiful, elegant, yet very functional.
Chef Colby took us through making dry and wet fresh pasta, a duck ragu (out of which he made 3 different sauces), and a quick and easy olive oil sauce.
Here was the most fascinating part of the entire experience for me. When you go to cooking class, the chefs -- and even if they're world class chefs -- are teaching you in a very teacher to student manner. Here's a recipe, you work through it, the chef comes and gives you notes.
Chef Colby did roughly the same thing, but slightly different. Here, I thought it was good that he was the primary cook (though we got to help out as much as we wanted to.) The reason is because when we cook something in cooking class, we end up eating it and it tastes fine, sometimes good. Here -- we're watching him prepare something that they prepare at Mozza. I wouldn't say it was easy what he did, but it did seem achievable -- maybe not sometime soon for me, but it wasn't an impossibility. In fact, one of the simplest dishes that he prepared (using a box of De Cecco pasta no less) -- he did in 10 minutes and it was amazing.
In a certain sense, this class really humanized chefs for me -- what they do obviously requires a lot of skill / an enormous amount of skill -- but here was the Chef just working through specific steps. Now -- he had a lot of profound insights that we wouldn't know otherwise which makes a real meaningful difference in how the end product tastes -- but it was a glimpse into, "Here's how a great tasting dish is prepared. Something you would order." Very inspiring actually.
One additional thing. I asked him afterwards what he thought of the various recreational classes (e.g. CIA has a well known one in Napa or Hyde Park.) He said that he hadn't taken those himself, but did mention that the way he got into cooking was simply by watching Mario Batali's old cooking shows on TV and then trying out the recipes. That's it. He also said that he saw no reason that people of any skill level couldn't do the same.