By CYNTHIA SCHUSTER EAKIN
Since many of us are spending more time in our own kitchen these days, it seems like this would be the perfect opportunity to sharpen our chef skills. Here is where you can go for expert culinary advice.
Ann LoParo launched her catering business, Annie’s Signature Sweets, in 2017 and began teaching virtual baking classes in March, 2020. She said that she teaches every weekend, averaging about 14 virtual classes a month. LoParo noted that, during the week, she bakes for corporate events and after-school kids’ camps.
A graduate of Magnificat High School, LoParo said she grew up in Avon Lake and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Kent State University and an Associate Degree in Baking and Pastry Arts from Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, NC. She said that she left a career as a social worker to express her creativity and satisfy her sweet tooth cravings.
“Two weeks after I went virtual, I received a phone call from someone out-of-town, inquiring about my classes. I asked how they heard about me and they said they read an article about me in “Country Living” magazine. I didn’t know anything about it. I don’t know how the magazine heard about me. No one ever contacted me. The caller sent me a link to the article and it was titled, ‘The Top 10 Cooking Classes in the Country’,” she said. ”In August, 2020, I was also featured in “Parade Magazine.”
Most of LoParo’s classes are two hours in length. A few are a bit longer, like the donut-making class, because the dough has to rise and there are two fillings to create. Pricing varies according to the subject and ingredients.
“My most popular class is French macarons. I’ve taught that class 75 times. Other popular classes are flourless chocolate torte, bagels and pretzels, whoopie pies and cinnamon rolls. I like to feature stuff that is different in my class list. I’ve done pop tarts, s’mores and a funfetti cake roll. People like pumpkin roll during the holidays, but they don’t think of other cake rolls that they can make,” she added. “My personal favorite classes are the yeast breads. I like cinnamon rolls and cream puffs.”
LoParo said that she has taught in-person classes in the past, but is not doing them at this time. She said that the students participating in her Zoom classes are from all over the world. “I’ve been a chef for 15 years. I’m kind of a laid-back chef. I want students to feel comfortable asking questions. Sure, baking is a science, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating,” she noted.
Visit www.anniessignaturesweets.com to sign up for one of LoParo’s classes. Once you register for a class, you will receive a recipe, material list and Zoom invitation. LoParo guides you through each step of every recipe and shows you baking tips and tricks that she has learned. “Smiles and fun are highly encouraged,” she added.
Chef Brandon Chrostowski of EDWINS recently kicked off the VIVANT @ Home virtual cooking class series, as well as a Kid’s Cook @ Home weekly class. He said the classes have been very popular and noted that participants seem to truly love learning how to cook.
Chrostowski believes that everyone, from seasoned and novice home cooks to take-out pros and even kids can learn a thing or two in the kitchen. As founder of EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute, he said that he sees people in his restaurants and at his butcher shop who admit that they are clueless in the kitchen, while experienced cooks are always curious about new cooking techniques. Because of the pandemic, many people are forced to cook at home. “A common thing that I find when I’m talking to customers is that they don’t know how to cook. I thought it was time to start some classes, because people’s homes are their new restaurants,” he added. Chrostowski said the classes are designed for people looking for inspiration, those who are feeling overwhelmed or frustrated in the kitchen, or for anyone just looking for some new tips and tricks.
The VIVANT @ Home classes start at $20 and include tips on overcoming cooking challenges, step-by-step, and ways to help you master the basics in about an hour. Registrants receive a private Zoom link, a shopping list, recipe and helpful preparation suggestions. Pickup is at EDWINS Butcher Shop, 13024 Buckeye Rd., starting at 10 a.m. the day before the class. Visit www.edwinsrestaurant.org to complete the class registration form, or call 216-921-3333.
Kids Cook @ Home classes take place on weekends and are for children above school age. Some adult supervision is required. The classes start at $10 for the class link, and $25 for a take-home kit that feeds four people. Pickup is at EDWINS Butcher Shop.
EDWINS also offers socially distanced, in-person classes on a variety of food and beverage topics, from building an unforgettable charcuterie board and how to pair a fine Burgundy wine to how to make the perfect baked pretzel.
Cuyahoga County Community College (Tri-C) offers a variety of hands-on and demonstration culinary classes for all skill levels, from beginners learning basic skills to advanced cooks discovering new techniques. Classes are held in the new state-of-the-art teaching kitchen, Chef’s Table, at Corporate College in Warrensville. Virtual classes are also available.
Invite your family and friends for an evening of cooking, tasting and fun. Upcoming classes include a virtual session on preparing tamales and tacos on Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. Learn to work with masa, the corn dough that is the foundation of many Mexican dishes. The chef will guide you as you create a Mexican meal to please a crowd on Apr. 27. The menu will include pork carnitas, pico de gallo, Mexican white rice with plantains and homemade flour tortillas. Visit www.tri-c.edu/community-education/culinary for information.
Virtual culinary classes help sharpen our chef skills
By CYNTHIA SCHUSTER EAKIN