Ashley Cooking - author provided image

Cooking class in action

A few months ago, I jumped in to something that I’d been batting around for years and went to cooking school. The Capital Region (Voorheesville, specifically) is lucky enough to host Gio Culinary Studio, which offers, along with dozens of drool-worthy one-night themed classes, a six-week intensive culinary certification course. The certification classes are deliberately small (mine had five other students) and are typically offered twice a year. I showed up to class with a comprehensive textbook, a long list of required items (a great excuse to expand my kitchen), and the hope that I wasn’t expecting too much from a time-limited course.

I was instead blown away by how much we covered in the mini-semester. Chef Giovanni Morina (and the course) is thoroughly Italian, with a nod to the history of French cuisine. Beginning with the purpose of the design of the chef’s coat and learning how to test if your knife is sharp (slowly slice a piece of paper and look for pulls), we filled notebooks with shorthand recipes, techniques, and quiz prep. We broke down whole chickens, diced vegetables (I practiced with 25 pounds of potatoes at home), caramelized meat, reduced stocks, seasoned EVERYTHING, costed recipes, poached chicken, and formed pasta—so much pasta—baked biscuits and made bread.

Mother Sauces - author provided image

Mother Sauces

In one of my favorite weeks, we covered the five French Mother Sauces (béchamel, hollandaise, veloute, espangnole, and tomato), as well as many secondary Daughter Sauces that are created from the bases. A tweaked béchamel became the mac and cheese base that I’d been searching for. We blind-tasted cheese and wine, shaped gnocchi, blended hot sauce, thickened roux, roasted potatoes, emulsified Caesar dressing, gutted and stuffed whole fish, and then made DESSERT. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but creating butter cream, ganache, and choux pastry for eclairs and creampuffs was captivating. The list of “must-buy” equipment at the front of my notebook grew daily.

We took quizzes on most days in preparation for the final exam, which resulted in a National Restaurant Association certification. The benefits of the techniques and learning style provided in the six short weeks were immeasurable to me and opened up other opportunities. You may not be interested in or able to complete the longer certification, but if you enjoy cooking or eating at all (I do not know who you are if you don’t), check out the website for a list of classes over the next several months, which is updated regularly. Try not to drool.