DIY cooking classes |

DIY cooking classes

Chef Ian Buchanan, center, helps culinary students prepare chicken skewers during a culinary course on the cusine of Thailand at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge Jan. 29.
Louie Traub |

I used to love to cook until I started dating a chef. On Sundays, I would open a bottle of wine and spend hours creating an entire meal of new dishes I had never tried before. It didn’t really matter how the dish turned out, it was the cathartic process behind the cooking that I loved. But with a chef in the wings, I began to agonize over every simple step, asking questions, second-guessing my decisions and, let’s just be honest here … I had gotten really accustomed to opening that bottle of wine and then sitting on a barstool across the kitchen island to watch him do all the work.

I don’t think I realized how needy I had become in my kitchen habits until sitting in another chef’s kitchen at Colorado Mountain College (CMC). I was taking one of CMC’s Continuing Education Culinary Adventure courses. The menu for the night — Tom Yung Goong hot and sour prawn soup.

The class

Chef Ian Buchanan was our teacher for the Thai cooking class. A chef instructor for CMC as well as a personal chef, he has two decades of experience in the culinary arts. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, he has taken advantage of his chosen profession by traveling the world, cooking for families and honing his skills while learning about food in other cultures. He owns a successful private chef business in Summit County, Open To The World.

He introduces himself to the 12 students in our class. Capped out at a dozen, the class size is intimate enough for him to find time to help each person if needed. He also made sure to tailor each of the nine recipes on the menu to only include ingredients that we could find in most grocery stores.

We broke off into two groups, with each team of six making all of the recipes, so in the end, we had two of each dish to try. This isn’t “Chopped,” Buchanan reminded us — take your time, ask questions. This was about us as students learning flavor profiles — try the dish first yourself, he said, and then I will help you if you need it.

A mother-daughter team in my group took charge on picking out what they were going to make because they weren’t first-timers in the class and were looking forward to creating recipes they hadn’t tried before. I was running solo and didn’t really have a preference, so I was left with making the hot and sour soup.

I read the recipe and, after bumbling around for a few minutes, started gathering up ingredients. Everything had already been laid out for us, with proteins portioned out, and everyone was eager to get their hands dirty and start chopping.

Although we were each in charge of a recipe or two, we all helped with other recipes while waiting for something to finish on the stove. There were a variety of groups participating: a husband and wife, a family of three as well as mother and daughter.

Buchanan walked around, lending a hand as needed and giving us pointers. As everyone set dishes out on the table — and we were given the opportunity to pour ourselves a glass of wine — I was shocked at the spread we had created. What at first had seemed like unorganized chaos with 12 people milling around a kitchen had resulted in a masterpiece. We all dug in and enjoyed each other’s company over dinner — reveling in the fact that the food was delicious, and we had created it ourselves.

More information

Colorado Mountain College offers more than 60 cooking classes a semester with a variety of different options.

To browse classes, go to

For more information on chef Ian Buchanan and Open To The World, visit his website at

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