by Corin Hirsch
Are cooking schools the wave of the future, or at least the future of food tourism? Marilee and Richard Spanjian, owners of the Inn at Weathersfield, think they might be. As the couple prepared to make a career change a few years ago, they scoured the country for a cooking school to purchase — until they realized that the hands-on, atmospheric space they sought didn’t exist. Instead, the Tennessee residents purchased the Inn at Weathersfield last winter, then renovated the loft over its barn to create their own school, the Hidden Kitchen. It opened at the end of July.
Each class centers around a food from a local Vermont farm, which Inn chef Jason Tostrup uses to guide students in creating dishes. During one of the earliest classes, “Vermont Veal Revival,” Lisa Kaiman from Jersey Girls Farm dropped in to chat as students transformed the meat she had raised into a veal tartar topped with a farm egg, and veal cutlets with andouille sausage and cheese.
“More and more people are becoming cognizant of where their food comes from, and are taking control of what they’re eating. They want to take the time to invest in creating a meal for themselves and they don’t necessarily know how to do it,” says Marilee Spanjian of the classes.
This fall one class will feature Cavendish game birds — chef Jason will teach students how to coat them with soy-cider glaze over johnny cakes; in another, devoted to pumpkins, students will stuff mini Wellwood Orchards' pumpkins with thyme and sausage-and-date risotto.
Though Tostrup is the sole instructor for now, Spanjian says future classes may include food personalities and authors. Will Emeril Lagasse reprise the visit he made to the Inn two years ago? It's a tantalizing thought.
Classes alternate between afternoons and evenings, and range from $35 to $95 per person. To check out the schedule, visit the Hidden Kitchen here.