CMC offers Culinary Adventure classes in Breckenridge
Colorado Mountain College offers more than 60 cooking classes a semester with a variety of different options. To browse classes, go to coloradomtn.edu/campuses/breckenridge_dillon/continuing_education/culinary_classes/
For more information on chef Ian Buchanan and Open To The World, visit his website at open2theworld.com
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, finding satisfaction when recipes turned out just as delicious as the photos made them look — or tossing a dish when I couldn’t seem to get it right.
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 — watching him take every bite and looking for a cringe. 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, and I couldn’t just bat my blue eyes at this chef and expect him to just take over for me.
Everyone else was confidently gathering up ingredients and utensils, and I stared at the recipe for Tom Yung Goong hot and sour prawn soup like it was written in a different language. It was just soup, for god’s sake; if I messed this up, then I had 12 strangers judging my cooking skills instead of one professional chef.
I’m not really sure which one is worse.
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, and was getting ready to take off to Costa Rica for the month of February to cook for a family.
It isn’t all glamorous, he tells me as I profess my jealousy — although he will find time to surf in the mornings — it’s spending a majority of each day in a hot kitchen. I still have a hard time feeling too bad for his time in Central America.
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 spent five and a half months traveling through Southeast Asia but made sure to tailor each of the nine recipes on the menu that evening to only include ingredients that we could find in most grocery stores.
He spent some time talking about substitutions for some of the hard-to-find ingredients and gave us all advice on how to cook rice. Most problems with rice are due to messing with it too much, Buchanan said. As it’s simmering, don’t touch it — don’t check it, stir it or even look at the pot. I almost laughed out loud — perfectly cooked rice in the mountains was the elusive yeti to me. My partner has explained the cooking process to me an infinite amount of times, and it still comes out either crunchy or mushy. Water boils at a lower temperature at elevation, Buchanan explained, and unlike cooking pasta, rice cooks due to steam, not soaking up the water. Each time you check it or stir it, you’re losing the steam and it takes that much longer. I blame my mismatched lids for my lack of success, but I also pretended I was really busy towards the end of class rather than give it another shot.
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. The gentleman next to me was attending solo as I was, telling me his wife was happy letting him take the class and bringing his new skills home to her. Almost everyone in the class wasn’t attending the culinary course for their first time — they had returned for another Friday night bonding activity.
Buchanan walked around, lending a hand as needed and giving us pointers. As the clock ticked down to the final minutes, I was surprised to see that I had finished up my recipe right on time. 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.
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