Passion to Profession

Learning From the Best

By Abby Weingarten | November 01, 2011
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Chefs Learning

Whip up Italian fare alongside Food Network celebrities and international authors. Prepare holiday hors d’oeuvres with a gaggle of friends. Or, turn your culinary passion into a profession with a bona fide post-secondary degree. Cooking classes abound in Sarasota-Manatee, for everyone from the amateurish to the adept. Find your flavor.


At Whole Foods Market in downtown Sarasota, fall brings wine tastings, cheese samplings, and fondue feasts for every level of chef. A “Cheese Monger Club Class” in mid-November teaches participants about the world of artisan fromages, while a post-Thanksgiving appetizer primer showcases some less-filling alternatives to holiday fare. Early December ushers in top wines, and 2012 draws to a close with a fondue extravaganza. Most classes are free or only $5. And here is a New Year’s resolution suggestion: Take the “Health Starts Here” store tour with a group of 10 people and become an expert aisle navigator, or sign up for a one-on-one private healthy eating consultation. Kick off a more nutritious lifestyle, and discover how to cook for it.

1451 First St, Sarasota; 941-955-8500;,

Whole Foods Market Classes


Another option for the “laycooks” is Publix Aprons Cooking School at Sarasota’s University Parkway store. Resident chef James Hendry describes the two-hour classes here as “infotainment” sessions. From “Italian Dinner Wine and Dine” to “Batter Up! Breakfast, Brunch and Beyond” and “Couples’ Cooking: Holiday Entertaining” courses, Aprons’ event schedule is as varied as its pupils. Children and adults can enroll, and the school also hosts private parties and team-building exercises. “Our classes are fun, interactive, educational, and delicious. We usually serve four courses with wine pairings for $40, so it’s affordable, too,” says Hendry, adding that the school opened in 2002. “We have hosted Food Network celebrity chefs and introduced people to food from local restaurants. It is just an all-around great experience.”

2875 University Parkway, Sarasota; 941-358-7781;


Sarasota’s own chef and author Giuliano Hazan organizes Italian national and international cooking classes through his Educated Palate program. In February, join him in a private kitchen in Houston, Texas, for a multicourse instructional with antipasti, risotto, pasta dishes, desserts, and regional Italian wines. Hazan offers insider tips on easy preparation of impressive products, and he has plenty of wisdom to impart. Since age 17, Hazan was working at Marcella Hazan’s lauded School of Classic Italian Cooking in Bologna, Italy. He is now the author of five books, including i, and is the recipient of the 2007 Cooking Teacher of the Year Award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

“I think my classes give people an idea of what it’s like to prepare a typical Italian meal. Everyone gets a chance to be involved, and we sit down and have a leisurely meal at the table with some wine,” Hazan says. “It’s a fun, enjoyable, pleasant time.”


Now that we have covered three beginner options, let us venture into the bigger leagues. For those contemplating a full culinary career, here is a trio of local hubs that will turn you from kitchen rookie to primo chef.


At Manatee Technical Institute’s Commercial Foods and Culinary Arts Program in Bradenton, chef Garry Colpitts helps long-term students develop a foundation in the catering, servicing, and sales industries. Enrollees in the 1,200-hour program will gear up for employment as prep cooks, line cooks, and head chefs by mastering the tricks of the modern commercial kitchen. The teaching team includes award-winning hotel and resort cooks, pastry artists, and sauce chefs from local restaurants, each specializing in various aspects of contemporary and classic cuisine. Earn your certification through the American Culinary Federation (ACF) and get cooking.

5603 34th St W, Bradenton; 941-751-7900, ext. 2018;


Sarasota County Technical Institute’s Commercial Foods and Culinary Arts Program catapults students to expert chef status, usually in 10 months. Devoted attendees can take three-year ACF-sponsored apprenticeships for real-world experiences, too. Regular courses on the Sarasota campus include “Bakery Goods and Dessert Preparation,” “Proficiency in Customer Relations,” and “Housekeeping and Equipment Operation.” The program articulates with Johnson and Wales University, and students often pursue jobs on cruise ships and in posh resorts, restaurants, and hotels.

4748 Beneva Rd, Sarasota; 941-924-1365, ext. 62286;


Keiser University’s Center for Culinary Arts has cutting-edge culinary laboratories at its Sarasota campus, and the staff encourage students to branch out via externships. The 35-year-old program takes a student-centered approach, with classes offered just one at a time. There are small daytime and evening courses, career placement is available, and students can choose between an associate’s degree in either culinary or pastry arts. In 16 months, chef Michael Moench and his staff take students from “American Regional Cuisine” and “Classical French Cuisine” to “Food Service Supervision” and “Stocks and Sauces.”

“A lot of our students will come in at 26 years old, and they’ll take one class at a time and pace themselves while they’re working. It is a very practical approach,” says Moench, who was named the 2008 Education Administrator of the Year for the State of Florida by the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges. “We had a student go to Australia to do an externship recently, and we’ve seen our students find employment at places like Bern’s Steak House, the Hard Rock Café in Tampa, the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota and the Hyatt Regency Sarasota. It is wonderful to witness, and I’m always happy to help my students achieve their goals.”

6151 Lake Osprey Dr, Sarasota; 1-866-KEISER2;

Whether you cook for recreational joy or for monetary rewards, you can always become more seasoned, so to speak. Let this sextet of suggestions spice up the coming year.

Kasier University Culinary school
Article from Edible Sarasota at
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