When Food Network television launched in 1993 not only did it satisfy the cravings of foodies with shows like “The Essence of Emeril,” with Emeril Lagasse; “30 Minute Meals,” with Rachel Ray; “Good Eats,” with Alton Brown and “Giada at Home,” with Giada De Laurentiis, it whet peoples’ insatiable appetite for learning how to cook.
Benefitting from that culinary enthusiasm is Katy Hume, chef/owner at Stir Cooking School, located in the restored Weir Building in the trendy Highlands neighborhood just west of downtown Denver. Hume, who opened the school in 2010, received a strong reception to her cooking classes, one that shows no signs of slowing down. The classes, which are offered to the public, draw a range of people from beginners curious to learn the basics, intermediate home cooks looking to expand their repertoire and seasoned professionals wishing to kick their cooking knowledge up a notch. The curriculum varies, depending on the time of year or if Hume and her staff simply feel inspired to try new things, but the school covers both familiar and unusual topics.
An idea cooked up in business school
Growing up in Texas, the aspiring chef would shadow her mom around the kitchen, but her heightened interest in culinary arts didn’t come until her late teens. “In high school I ended up graduating top of my class and in turn attended the University of Texas, Austin in their Red McCombs School of Business,” said Hume. “One day I just realized that the direction I was going wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want to sit in an office all day.”
The collegian called home and announced she was quitting business school to attend the C.I.A. to which her mother responded, “But honey, you have to have a college education to be a spy.”
Hume laughed, replying, “No mom, the Culinary Institute of America.” With her parents squarely behind the decision, she wrapped up the semester at UT and began attending C.I.A. in Hyde Park, NY in April 2001. After graduating with an associate’s degree, the newly-minted chef was equipped with the fundamentals of classic cooking techniques strengthened first by a restaurant job in San Francisco as well as being a chef instructor at Sur la Table in Dallas, a post she held for three and a half years. “Running the culinary program at Sur la Table was an amazing experience,” explained Hume. “I loved that job, but the next best thing I could do was to open my own cooking school.”
Learning ‘go to’ recipes and those from afar
Running the gamut between traditional dishes, seasonal cuisine and international fare, the classes are designed to give students an extensive portfolio of options for creating savory and sweet home cooked meals and desserts. “People prepare meals in teams of four to six people,” Hume added. “Most of the menus have five recipes and every team makes every dish. When you come in you may be paired with somebody very new to cooking or you may get paired with someone who could know more than you do. It might feel intimidating at first, but once you jump in and say, ‘I can make one of those dishes,’ you’re good.”
The All About Seafood class invites participants to prepare steamed mussels with a Thai coconut curry sauce, pan-seared scallops with mint pesto, pistachio crusted fish with spicy cilantro yogurt, Moroccan fish with carrots and pearl couscous and angel hair with a garlicky white wine clam sauce. Classes such as Five Classic Recipes Every Cook Should Know, All About Hatch Green Chiles, Celebrating Julia Child and Favorite Foods of New Orleans scratch the surface of what Stir offers. “I’ll do a holiday cookie workshop, summer grilling course and Cinco de Mayo class once a year, but tend to repeat the cooking with beer, cooking with wine and Italian-themed classes,” Hume commented.
Date nights, family classes and bachelorette parties
Each class is taught at three ‘exactly alike’ stations equipped with plenty of utensils to go around. Students are supported by at least one chef, two or three assistants that the school brings over from Johnson & Wales, a culinary-centric university in Denver, and on occasion, a bartender. Having a liquor license allows Stir to offer classmates adult beverages, something that has proven a helpful icebreaker on Date Night classes. With topics ranging from Summer in Tuscany, Paris Nights, Falling into Fall, Celebrating the New Year and Easter Love, Stir has developed a loyal following of couples and singles on dates. As long as they come with a parent or guardian students as young as ten years old are welcome at the school, which offers classes like Mastering Mac and Cheese, Perfect Pizza Party and Healthy Weeknight Dishes Made Easy.
“We have a collaboration with Sticky Fingers, a cooking school tailored to children,” said Hume. “We’ll utilize our spaces for birthday parties and culinary enrichment for kids.” Capitalizing on a relatively new trend, Stir hosts bachelorette parties where a group of ladies buy out the school and spend the evening enjoying cocktails and baking decadent cupcakes or preparing appetizers paired with different wines. “Last year we did an event surrounding places where the bride-and-groom-to-be had been together, then based cocktails on those destinations like the Sazerac from New Orleans and a Mint Julep from Kentucky,” Hume added. “We cater to whatever the girls want.”
Owner, Katy Hume photographed above.
If you’re looking to enhance your skills around the kitchen in a casual, nurturing environment, Stir has just the right ingredients.
Stir Cooking School
3215 Zuni St., Denver
Who takes classes: Twentysomethings, young professionals and retirees comprise the student body. Skills range from beginners to professional chefs. Companies like booking the school for team building events.
Cost: Ranging from $69-$80 per person, classes can be purchased individually or as many as you wish. Gift certificates are also available.
Good to Know: Classes are generally held on weekday evenings and weekend afternoons. You should book at least two weeks out for most classes and even three months out for the most popular classes, such as Sushi, Chocolate Workshop and Master the Grill. For private holiday parties and special events consider booking eight months to a year out.
Bio: Kim McHugh, a Lowell Thomas award-winning writer, has written about golf, travel, resort hotels, cuisine and architecture since 1986. His stories have appeared in Colorado Expression, Nicklaus, SKI, Rocky Mountain Golf, Tastes of Italia, Luxury Golf & Travel, Hemispheres and Colorado AvidGolfer.