We are unquestionably an epicurious culture.
We get a lot of help from the wave of new food blogs, magazines, and articles now delivered to our smart phones each day to the wealth of cooking classes and schools available for those with cooking aspirations and culinary dreams.
And let’s not leave out the explosion of network food and cooking shows that range from instructive to pure cooking competitions. Oh but the culinary rock stars that have emerged from this epicurean explosion are as awe-inspiring as they are entertaining.
I’ve been fortunate enough to not only meet a local culinary rock star – who just happens to a Los Angeles native – but I’ve had the opportunity to attend his cooking school too.
Chef Eric’s Culinary Classroom
Left: Chef Eric Crowley. Right: Chef Eric’s Culinary Classroom.
Chef Eric Crowley founded Chef Eric’s Culinary Classroom in 2003 (located in West Los Angeles) where he offers many recreational, individual, couples, kids, and professional cooking classes. He’s a media favorite with frequent appearances on local stations KTLA, KCAL 9, NBC 4, FOX 11 as well as BET, E! Entertainment and more.
“Food matters because people need to eat. And today people clearly have more self awareness about what they eat,” Chef Eric said. “Some people view food as a fuel and necessity for the body. Others view it as a central experience as well as a visual and aromatic experience. For many people, food is a big deal especially when it revolves around family and relationships.”
His extraordinary passion for cooking and teaching are no accident. His father was a teacher and his mother was a gourmet cook who was quite fearless in the kitchen. However his road to the culinary world was not a straight line.
His circuitous culinary journey
Interesting enough, he started out as a saxophone player and music major at California State University at Northridge ( or CSUN – my alma mater). Following CSUN, he started working at a law firm in Los Angeles. But when a cooking class ignited his passion for cooking cultivated by his mother, he got a part-time job working in the kitchen of a local restaurant. That led him to enroll in the Culinary Institute of America in New York where he graduated with honors. What followed was a stay in Europe where he worked at Michelin Star restaurants in Barcelona and Munich. Upon his return to the United States, he was hired by the Patina Restaurant Group where he supervised catered events and intimate dinners.
Left: Chef Eric assisting student. Right: Students in my Culinary Basic Series class.
It was fortuitous that the teaching bug bit Chef Eric. It happened after filling in for a friend who taught at a culinary school. Chef Eric said the student feedback that followed was so positive that the “light bulb” went off and he knew teaching was his calling.
Since Chef Eric’s Culinary Classroom opened in 2003, he has taught over 7,500 students. Some of his former students have gone on to pursue their culinary dreams and started successful businesses after completing his Master Chef and Master Baking/Pastry professional certification programs.
The basics and so much more
Although I twirl a pan or two with relative ease, I wanted some professional training. I enrolled in Chef Eric’s 4-Week Culinary Basic Series. I learned that my basic skills needed a little sharpening. I must admit, I’m sharp now. Literal speaking because in the very first class we learned about knife skills.
“Having a good quality knife and one that can be sharpened can make your time in the kitchen that much more enjoyable,” emphasized Chef Eric. This tip has already paid dividends for this home cook.
The 4-Week Culinary Basic Series breaks down like this (click here for full description and list of all the food we made):
- Class #1 – Introduction – Knife Skills/Sauté Techniques
- Class #2 – Meal Preparation/Organization
- Class #3 – Fresh Pasta, Sauces, and Potatoes
- Class #4 – Fish and Shellfish Meals
Cooking like a rock star
Featured here from week 2: Spice Rubbed Skirt Steak (Carne Asada) with Guacamole and Pilaf-Style Rice, Mama’s Meat Loaf with Mashed Potatoes and Carrots, Asian Five Spice Chicken Skewers With Spicy Peanut Sauce, Thai-Style Noodle Salad with Lemon Grass and diced Cucumbers, Hearty Chicken and Chile Stew with Tortillas, Lemon Orzo Pasta with Kalamata Olives and Chicken with Tomato Herb Sauce.
The classes are taught in a professionally designed, fully equipped kitchen stocked with the freshest ingredients. Upon first glance, the menu of dishes we were slated to prepare each class seemed overwhelming. But we quickly learned that Chef Eric’s pre-cooking class discussion was great preparation before we were dispatched to our workstations.
The classes are all hands on. You chop, shear, sauté, simmer, plate and more. I never felt so confident and empowered from his guidance and instruction. His warmth, enthusiasm and expertise made the class fun and rewarding. The result: we made most amazing and delicious entrées from the simplest of ingredients. The best part – as a class we ate all our creations after the cooking was done. The number and array of items we made each week varied. Here’s the menu we prepared during the final week of class:
Featured here from week 4: Seared and Spice-Crusted Ahi Tuna drizzled with Sesame Dressing on Julienne Lettuce, Brown Rice and Edamame Beans with Soy Sauce, Salmon Steamed in Wine and Spices on Mixed Greens with Balsamic Vinaigrette, Grilled Chipotle-Spiced Shrimp and Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with homemade French Dressing, Succulent Featured here from week 4: Bass and Mixed Vegetable Packets with Mint and Basil Pesto, and Sole Vin Blanc with Ginger-Lime-Scallion Butter with Shiitake Mushroom and Asparagus Sauté.
What’s next for Chef Eric
Chef Eric and wife, co-partner Jennie Crowley
Chef Eric and his wife and business partner Jennie Crowley (President and COO) have put a lot of love, sweat and care into every aspect of the cooking school. It shows. With teaching 5 to 6 days a weeks, developing and managing new products like his Sizzle and Smooth spice blends, and juggling his numerous media and public speaking engagements, what’s next for Chef Eric?
“I am working on cookbook based on my very popular couples cooking classes. It will have fantastic pictures and easy recipes for busy couples. It will imbue the feeling couples get when they take our classes. The cookbook will be out early next year or perhaps sooner, so stay tuned,” Chef Eric said.
Easy recipes from Chef Eric
Left: Sizzling Grilled Chicken Breasts. Right:Sizzling Oven-Roasted Potatoes
Chef Eric shares two recipes you can try at home. His Sizzling Grilled Chicken Breasts and Sizzling Oven-Roasted Potatoes. If the cooking bug in you yearns for more, see the list of cooking classes on his website at http://culinaryclassroom.com/. Now, get cooking!
Chef Eric’s Sizzling Grilled Chicken Breasts
See the YouTube link demonstration at https://youtu.be/Uee-pS1dfMc
Yield: 4 Servings
Chicken breasts, boneless 4 each
Orange, zested and juiced 2 each
Chef Eric’s Sizzle Spice Blend 2 tablespoons
- Cut the chicken breasts in half horizontally, making two thin cutlets. Put the finished chicken into a zip top bag or a pan and set aside.
- In a bowl, combine the orange juice, zest and Chef Eric’s Sizzle Spice Blend.
- Pour the orange juice mixture into the bag with the chicken and seal. Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for as long as possible. Overnight is fine.
- Preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat and spray the pan with vegetable oil spray. When ready to cook, remove the chicken from the marinade and grill for about three minutes per side, or until the chicken is cooked through.
- While the chicken is grilling, pour the leftover marinade into a small pan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and keep warm to use as a sauce.
- Serve on a warm plate and garnish with a spoonful of the sauce.
Tip: Tofu steaks, turkey breasts, steak, fish and pork chops would be great with this marinade.
Chef Eric’s Sizzling Oven-Roasted Potatoes
See the YouTube link demonstration at https://youtu.be/Uee-pS1dfMc
Yield: 4 Servings
Red bliss potatoes, halved 2 pounds
Olive oil 1 tablespoons
Chef Eric’s Sizzle Spice Blend 2 teaspoons
Salt 1 teaspoon
- In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, Chef Eric’s Sizzle Spice Blend and salt.
- Preheat an oven to 450 degrees. Wash and dry the potatoes. Cut the potatoes into halves and place them into the bowl.
- Toss the potatoes in the Sizzle mixture, making sure that they are coated in oil. Add more oil, if needed.
- Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet that has been lined with aluminum foil.
- Roast until the potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes to an hour.
- Serve with the Sizzling Chicken Breasts for a delicious meal.