A Good Time With Food

This is an excerpt of an Article by Jacob Laxen | Fort Collins Coloradoan | USA TODAY NETWORK

Trish O’Neill’s three children were plenty surprised when they learned their mother’s midlife crisis involved taking cooking classes.The longtime nursing industry employee never spent much time in the kitchen when raising her family.“We only had survival food,” O’Neill said: “Macaroni and cheese, and whatever would feed the most people in the quickest amount of time.”

Attending cooking courses quickly became O’Neill’s most cherished hobby. After racking up more than 300 hours in cooking classes, she was inspired to open The Cooking Studio inside the Opera Galleria in Old Town Fort Collins at 123 N. College Ave. in 2015.

O’Neill now often sits in on the regular evening classes, serving as both bartender and teacher’s assistant.“I learn something every time,” O’Neill said. “You get a delicious meal while having this really fun experience.”

O’Neill staffs a handful of instructors from throughout the local culinary industry and often brings in new teachers. One of the most tenured Cooking Studio instructors is Steven Nalls, who also teaches at Boulder’s Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts.

“We have a lot more fun at The Cooking Studio,” Nalls said. “We are there to have a good time. It is less about getting a grade but more about learning to make something tasty.” Cheese souffles were on the menu for the last class taught by Chef Nalls.

Courses cover specific regions of the world and basic cooking skills and draw participants of all different skill levels. “Usually at the start of class, there’s this super quiet, nervous tone,” said Dana Demarco, a local chef who teaches a number of Cooking Studio Classes. The Cooking Studio also offers special date night classes for couples, corporate team-building courses and a number of youth cooking classes and camps.

Adult courses are typically $80 per person. Demarco said cooking classes help people connect with their food.“People are removed from their food,” she said. “They tend to overthink food and glamorize it as something hard or difficult to prepare.”

During The Cooking Studio’s classes, attendees break up into teams. Each team makes a different part of a five-course meal on equipment donated and assembled by Electrolux. Instructors watch along and assist when needed.

The attendees then enjoy the feast together at the end of the night, taking home leftovers and all of the recipes.“By the end, everyone is usually talking, laughing and becoming friends,” Demarco said. “Food has a way of bringing people together.”

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