Cooking classes -- worth it?

I’ve got a bit of extra gift money, and I’m trying to think of an interesting way to spend it. Usually I buy books, movies, or music, but I’ve got more of those than I know what to do with. Tonight I was picking up some Thai food from a local take-out place, and I saw a sign that they offer Thai cooking lessons. Hmm…

Usually I don’t cook at all if I can help it, but I love Thai food, and the one place in town is too damned expensive to go to as regularly as I’d like. So I’m thinking that maybe taking a Thai cooking class or two would be interesting and useful. But I’m not sure – is it actually worthwhile taking a cooking class? Could I learn anything from a class that I couldn’t learn by buying a cookbook and just following the instructions? Anyone have experience in this realm?

Cooking classes are very helpful in that they show you techniques for preparation and all the little things a cook does that aren’t in a recipe. A series of basic cooking classes would be a good thing as well, but if you don’t normally cook maybe not.

The other thing that paying for cooking classes might accomplish is the “I spent the money, now I’ve got a commitment” part of the deal. Many people buy a cookbook so that they can learn to cook Thai food, and then never follow through. Pay for cooking lessons, now every Thursday night you spend two hours cooking, and come home knowing techniques, information about what makes a good ingredient, good equipment, etc. At the end of the course, you know how to cook a half dozen recipies, and have the information to learn more. It’s far from guarenteed-- but many people do follow through more if they have a little more structure than a cookbook and a plan–especially if you don’t usually cook.

Also. cookbooks are full of information like “whip cream until stiff peaks form”–I always find myself looking at the whipping cream and wondering whether it is whipped enough (and sometimes wish I could call my mother over to consult)(No, I don’t whip cream often). A cooking class provides you with an instructor who can tell you when things are cooked enough, whipped enough, brown enough.

You are lucky that your passion is Thai food because you can buy this arguably one of the best cookbooks ever written. I have done several cooking classes and usually the aim is to teach you one or two dishes properly. Thompson’s book is designed to explain the entire tradition of Thai cooking and I love flicking through mine. I was actually recently contemplating converting my diet to nothing but Thai food for a while just for the hell of it.

I’m a good cook, with a fair amount of experience. Almost on a whim, I took a class on Master Sauces and enjoyed the heck out of it. Some techniques I already knew, some were new to me, but in general the class gave me hands-on, solid instruction in the principles and techniques involved. Given time/money, I’d take other cooking classes in a heartbeat. . .

It is probably more likely to be worth it if you will enjoy the experience itself. Will you enjoy the group atmosphere? Do you have a friend who will sign up with you, or do you look forward to meeting some new folks? Will you enjoy learning more about the cultural aspects of the food, not just the techniques.

I do a fair amount of cooking and, while I’ve enjoyed cooking classes, haven’t found them to be an especially strong learning experience. That is probably in part due to the type of class I chose to take.

Me too. My wife wanted to go, so I went out of boredom. But it was a series that covered stocks (no bonds), sauces, etc. and was very informative.

Foundations are to build on. Take the class and get some cookbooks. Go to the library, I’ve found many great Thai cookbooks there. I can’t remember its name, but one written by a Thai-American Mother was very helpful and was almost a Bible and Compendium of Thai Homecooking (I really wish I could remember the author or title, but it’s been several years.). It outlined very simply and effectively the basics of Thai cooking and had some great and absolutely authentic recipes.

Thai cooking is like the Provencal style of Asia. Very basic and fresh ingredients with bright flavors. It is mainly dependant on fresh ingredients and some basic sauces/flavors. It really is a simple style of cuisine once you have it revealed systematically. I think the cooking class would be great idea, couldn’t hurt.

I took a great 12 week basics class through Home Chef (I think only their SF store still has classes). We started with stocks and moved through sauces, various techniques like steaming, sauteeing, braising, baking, etc, always including one entire meal (starter, main course, veg/starch, dessert) made in class, then done at home as homework.

It was awesome. I learned a ton and still have the recipes fromt he class (I bound them!).

Go for it. You will have a blast!