The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday December 5th

Classes Weave Together Cooking, Art

It's no surprise, then, that more people are seeking out cooking lessons to make their own dining more enjoyable, to acquire an essential life skill or even to flex a little of their creative muscle.

Anne Everitt, a pastry baker at Weaver Street Market, teaches a series of five two-hour cooking classes in the kitchen of Panzanella, a new-wave Italian restaurant in Carr Mill Mall. Everitt said that because of the rising demand for her classes among college students, she is considering teaching an additional series of classes to fit their schedules.

The classes focus on basic cooking techniques, beginning with knife skills and leading into creative root vegetable cooking and soup-making.

Geared toward beginners, the series aims to leave them with skills they can apply to new situations. "If you don't know anything about cooking, you can take the class," Everitt said. "I find a lot of people in need of some basic cooking skills."

She cited as an example the class on knife skills, in which students learn fundamental concepts like cutting vegetables into same-sized pieces so that they will cook evenly.

Everitt emphasized the importance of her students leaving the class not only understanding how to work through specific recipes but also knowing how to use basic skills like slicing and dicing to tackle new things.

"I try to teach people how to work without a recipe and to not be afraid to find a recipe and attack it," she said.

According to Rebecca Lawson, a local jazz dance teacher who just finished the series, Everitt was successful in this aim.

"The class was helpful in giving me more confidence about how to cook without a recipe and how to play with food," she said.

To make sure all her students achieve this goal, Everitt said she lets them do a great deal of cooking and learn skills through experimentation. "I do very little demonstration," she said. "The class is very hands-on."

Working in a group environment is an added perk because it allows students to learn from one another as they venture into uncharted territory with new recipes. "The students get to work with a lot of people and see each others' techniques," Everitt said.

While teaching a cooking class serves a practical purpose, Everitt said, she is conscious of the importance of incorporating aesthetics into her culinary endeavors.

"I consider myself more of a creative person than an artist, by any means," she said. "But it's important to the taste buds to have something that looks good and tastes good."

Likewise looking at cooking from an artistic angle, the Carrboro ArtsCenter is offering cooking classes in cooperation with local restaurants. The classes, covering Italian cuisine, bread-baking and vegetarian cooking, incorporate aesthetic appeal into skills and recipes.

"We consider cuisine to be a fine art," said Mary Ruth, the coordinator of the classes. "There's a lot of creativity that goes into putting ingredients together to make food."

Dilip Barman, who teaches the class on vegetarian cooking, emphasized the importance of making food pleasing to the eye.

"I think that food is far more than what you put into your mouth," he said. "There's a philosophy to it."

Centered around the philosophy of vegetarian cuisine, Barman said, his class gives students the opportunity to work with a wide variety of foods. For artistic flair, he teaches them how to use to color to enhance the food's aesthetic appeal.

"Using purple or blue potatoes will add a whole new experience to what you eat," he said.

He also emphasized encouraging his students to learn new things by violating recipes and experimenting.

"If (the recipe) calls for an onion, try using a shallot, for example," he said.

Barman said that culinary art begins with recognizing cooking as a necessity and that his talent for working well with food originated in its routine presence in his life rather than a need for a creative outlet.

"It's a matter of centering around food," he said. "It's the highest priority in life."

He said the importance of food in everyday life goes hand in hand with the idea of cooking as a basic life skill. Many of his students have minimal experience but simply want to improve their skills in order to eat out less.

Rebecca Sowder, a freshman environmental science major at UNC, is enrolled in Barman's class and said it has already benefited her. "I've already tried cooking for my family and friends and I think I've learned a lot," she said.

She added that she had some cooking experience when she signed up for the class but that she has learned a lot of new things about presentation.

"Dilip really emphasizes colorful dishes, and at the end of the meal we put everything on the plate in a proper way to make it aesthetically pleasing."

For some people it's a necessity; for others, it's an art form. But with so much room for experimentation in such a practical skill, learning to cook is bound to add a little flavor to life.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached

at artsdesk@unc.edu.

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