For centuries, Grandmothers have worked hard perfecting family recipes in hopes of passing them on to their daughters, who in turn would pass them on to their daughters. A pinch of this, a dollop of that; cooking can be daunting, especially if you never grew up around a working kitchen. My Grandmother on my Father’s side was Italian and loved to be in the kitchen. Grandma Jean made homemade ravioli every Sunday, baked fresh bread, and either had several fruit pies or the heaviest cheese cake you could imagine for dessert. Plus, there was homemade wine. But, I was young and didn’t understand the importance behind the love of cooking.
Surrounded by fast food, and restaurants that deliver, its easy to forget that you can prepare a nutritious meal–in no time at all–in your own kitchen while having fun too. However, based on the amount of people who watch the food network, cooking is a skill many are attempting to perfect. Who doesn’t hope to learn from chefs like Giada De Laurentiis, Ina Garten: the Barefoot Contessa, Emeril Lagasse–the Bam Man, and my all time favorite, Gordon Ramsey. These chefs inspire the least talented to strive for success in the kitchen, while those who are already wonderful cooks perfect their skills.
Here in Charlotte, we have our own great chefs; however, finding a place to learn how to cook is not as easy a task. Thats where Chef Alyssa Gorelick comes into play. A native of Charlotte, Gorelick first became interested in the culinary world as a 10 year old. “I started helping my mom when she would entertain, and I loved it. When she invited people over, Id jump at the opportunity to contribute. I loved how happy it made people when I cooked for them, and I was addicted.”
Her love of cooking continued throughout high school. After graduating, she attended culinary school at The Art Institute and returned to Charlotte where she was employed as Executive Chef of Fern, Flavors from the Garden. Gorelick describes her style of cooking as healthy and seasonal with strong influences from countries around the Mediterranean. Fresh ginger, chile peppers, vinegars and lots of acids like grapefruit are some of her favorite ingredients. She also loves adding smoke to dishes.
Opening Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen was the brainchild of her boyfriend, Andrew. After leaving Fern in September 2012, Gorelick realized she wanted to do something of her own, something that combined her love of local foods and the Charlotte community. It was then that Gorelick took the idea of cooking classes seriously. ”It is a niche I could fill in Charlotte. So many people want to learn, to be better cooks for themselves and their families, but they also want to learn where to buy the best products and about different ingredients.”
The kitchen is a place where guests can get excited and embrace the opportunity to experience a hands-on-cooking class. Its a shared experience when they come with friends and family. There are five different ability levels, and each class accommodates up to 22 students. Typically, there are five tables with four students to a table. It’s important that each group be of a similar level. The cuisine for each class differs. Some classes are based on Spanish, Italian, Thai, and Indian food, while others may be based on a specific diet, such as Vegetarian or Paleo. There are holiday events and even seasonal class menu changes. After the groups finish cooking, they sit and share their meal sipping beer or wine while enjoying great commentary.
The biggest challenge of Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen is to demonstrate the importance of eating healthy and locally. If more people ate this way, they would see the value of eating natural products and not taking the easy way and ordering food. Some people think eating healthy doesn’t taste good, and this is just not the case! Having partnered with farmers and vendors in the Atherton Market, plus Small City Farm, New Town Farms, and Lucky Fish, its been a lot of fun. We have collaborated with other vendors and have even done a Cooking with Beer class with Triple C Brewery. We love working with like-minded brands to strengthen our message of good wholesome food.
Gorelick loves Charlotte and is proud to have started a business in her hometown, a city with a sense of community, where the energy runs deep, and the people she meets bring a smile to her face. For a calendar of classes visit www.ChefAlyssasKitchen.com. You wont regret it!