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Get Cookin' In San Diego's Kitchens


The Culinary Kitchen at Balboa Park Food & Wine School.
Courtesy photo.

Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a complete novice, when it comes to finding a comfort zone in the kitchen, Julia Child said it best: “Learn to cook—try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all, have fun!”

At least in San Diego, you don’t have to go it alone. Looking to sharpen your knife skills? There’s a class for that. Determined to bake the perfect pie crust? There’s a class for that. You want some wine with that cheese? There’s a class for that, too. Here, a few of our favorite places to get schooled in the culinary arts:

From wine seminars to sushi-making lessons, Balboa Park Food & Wine School serves up delectable world fare with a generous side of hospitality. Held in the Culinary Kitchen overlooking the Prado, food-based classes, for the most, part are observational but always include libations that reflect the evening’s theme. Be on the lookout for fun combos such as “Spicy Latin Cuisine and Tequila” and “Going Local: Local Food Meets Local Beer.” Held in a rustic room among glowing candelabras, intimate wine tastings are educational yet approachable.

If you want to learn how to properly shell a lobster, devein a shrimp or fillet a fish, head to Catalina Offshore Products. The fresh seafood wholesaler, which is open to the public, periodically hosts cooking collaborations in its refrigerated warehouse. And though slightly unstructured in presentation, the abundance of good eats, salty humor and loyal customers—including local chefs and fanatical foodies—makes for one lively party. Bring your own beverages, and a jacket.

Focused on bringing health consciousness into the kitchen, Cooking 4 Life educates folks on how to maximize nutrition and eliminate unwanted contaminates. In-home private classes for up to four couples include lessons for cutting back on bad fats as well as doubling the nutrition in food while cooking it in half the time. The popular “Lunch & Learn” program takes place onsite or in office environments.

At Great News! Discount Cookware & Cooking School, participants benefit from a state-of-the-art kitchen outfitted with multiple televisions. Choose from a variety of observational classes as well as hands-on sessions including knife skills, cake decorating and the popular “Friday Night Dinner Party.” While you’re there, sign up for a guided tour of a local ethnic market, or peruse the retail shop, which is stocked with just about anything your new-found cooking talent could possible require.

Classes seat up to 52 students. Imagine yourself surrounded by colorful wall murals depicting European street scenes while learning to cook Italian carbonara and cannoli, or Spanish paella and flan. Inspiring, isn’t it? Or maybe you’d rather uncover the secrets to creating a fantastic brunch or floral arrangement for your centerpiece. Either way, Cooking with Class provides a beautifully appointed facility that’s elegant enough for a romantic date or classy girl’s night out. Private group and team-building cooking classes are also available.

For the little chefs in your life (ages 5 and up), Captain Cook's Culinary Academy for Kids offers “in-home” classes focused on utilizing organic, sustainable ingredients whenever possible. Lessons feature three hands-on recipes, and kids get to eat all the food they prepare. Cost: $175 per 1-1/2 hour lesson for up to five children.