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Get Cooking

Santa Fe School of Cooking

Santa Fe, New Mexico

In historic downtown Santa Fe, the Santa Fe School of Cooking specializes in all things Southwestern. Seated at tables of four to eight, up to 60 guests can watch a demonstration and partake in a meal, or opt for a hands-on class at individual workstations where everyone prepares a portion of the meal. Small groups of up to 10 people can choose to cook in the school’s commercial kitchen. Classes are three hours long, except for Chile Amor and Salsas, which run two hours each and offer tastings only. Menus feature traditional New Mexican, Native American, Mexican, Spanish, vegetarian and contemporary Southwestern cuisine.

“Our chefs are well informed and entertaining,” said director Nicole Ammerman. “Every private event is personalized depending on what your group wants. For example, a portion of your group can cook the meal, while the remainder comes for the meal itself. We can also modify a hands-on class to include an hour of demo and education about New Mexican food history, followed by everyone making a dish, maybe tamales.”

For serious foodies, the three-day Southwest Culinary Boot Camp covers cooking techniques and historical building blocks of Southwestern food, plus meeting some of Santa Fe’s top chefs at their restaurants. Also popular, afternoon restaurant tours start with a meet-and-greet with the chef/guide and tasting favorite recipes of the school paired with wine. Tours stop at four top Santa Fe restaurants, where chefs, wine experts and more share their knowledge. Tours can accommodate up to 160 people, divided into smaller groups.

Culinary Center of Kansas City

Overland Park, Kansas

Barbeque and Smokology 101 are just a few of the many themes and cuisines covered in approximately 600 classes held annually at the Culinary Center of Kansas City. Most span several hours, but two-day cooking camps and a pro series are also scheduled. Two full teaching kitchens and three event spaces can be combined to accommodate up to 200 guests for an appetizer-style event. Groups can be served breakfast, lunch or dinner. A retail store and an event-planning specialist can assist with your group’s culinary experience.

“Almost everything we do is centered around hands-on cooking, and we specialize in customized events,” said owner Laura Laiben. “For example, if a group wants to understand Kansas City barbecue, we can show them all different styles or make ribs KC style.”

Private events emphasize team building and culinary skills. Mystery box activities direct each team to cook a different component of the meal. A group can also choose a preset menu, and then each team makes part of the meal. A full-fledged barbecue contest challenges teams to create everything from grilled appetizers to a backyard barbecue. Facilitators give feedback at a signature award ceremony that looks at cooking skills as well as how the team interacts with one another. Groups can also prepare food for local charities under the center’s All Hands for Hunger program.

“Ours is a very walkable community, and groups can come for a 10 a.m. cooking class and eat lunch before shopping in the area’s boutiques,” said Laiben. “Afterward, they can return for an appetizer or wine reception.”

Elizabeth Hey

Elizabeth Hey is a member of Midwest Travel Journalists Association and has received numerous awards for her writing and photography. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @travelbyfork.