Franklin Park Conservatory Cooking for Beginners II Gets a Thumbs Up for Excellence


I could think of a million reasons why I shouldn’t have gone to the cooking class I was registered for.

  1. It was called “Cooking for Beginners II” and while I’m no Iron Chef, I definitely wouldn’t call myself a beginner.
  2. I was attending the class alone. Normally, I thought people attending cooking classes were on a date or participating in some sort of bachelorette party.
  3. I had broken my thumb the week before. How was I supposed to chop and participate with an obnoxious brace hindering any movement I had with arguably the most important finger?

Despite these excuses in my head, I decided to go into the cooking class with an open mind. I love cooking and my awesome roommate (and blog co-founder) purchased the class for me as a birthday gift. I owed it to her, and myself to forget about all the reasons why I wouldn’t enjoy it, and just dive in.

I had never taken a cooking class before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I maneuvered my car through the maze that is the Franklin Park Conservatory and made my way to the Scott’s Miracle-Gro Building in the very back of the park. After parking, I walked past a garden full of flowers and vegetables and made my way to the building where the class was being held.  It was quaint farmhouse with white, painted doors. A small chalkboard stand sat in front with large, loopy cursive writing that read, “Cooking for Beginners II.”

Upon entering the little farmhouse, I was immediately greeted by a bubbly redhead, Allison, the instructor of the class. She excitedly motioned for me to come in and grab an apron, “but not those, wimpy half-aprons” she said with a robust laugh.” I grabbed a full-sized apron and sat down in the front row, nervously sipping my water and fidgeting with the silverware she had neatly placed on the table. I looked around and saw two young couples and two middle-aged women who appeared to be friends. Slowly a few singles like me drifted in and introduced themselves.

After the introductions were made I chatted with Lindsey, the other participant flying solo. I took a minute to admire the space. It was a large, open kitchen with crisp, shiny granite countertops and a floating island took center stage with plenty of room for people to gather around and participate. A sunny yellow paint coated the walls and was a perfect complement to the natural sunlight pouring in through the high kitchen windows, their ledges, teeming with greenery from the nearby garden. An array of colorful vegetables was neatly arranged on the table, some of which I couldn’t identify.

It was time to start.

“I want this to be a learning experience for everyone, but most importantly I want this to be fun,” Allison said with her commandeering yet encouraging voice. “We’re going to start by chopping up our vegetables and—“Oh my God, what happened to your thumb?!” Everyone stared as I told them that no, this was not the result of an accident in the kitchen but rather a case of me clumsily falling and jamming my thumb into the pavement on a run gone bad.

This seemed to lighten the mood and everyone laughed as I cracked jokes about it. Allison instantly found an easy job for me that didn’t involve cutting. I was the designated lettuce washer, and I even got to learn how to use a salad spinner.

She carefully showed all of us the best way to chop onions, fennel, parsnips, ginger and many other fresh vegetables and herbs for the stir fry and oven-roasted vegetables we were preparing. I was most impressed with her swift garlic peeling trick.

She balled her hand into a tight fist and pounded a knife (facing outwards) with two quick fist bumps. The skin on the garlic practically fell off. The vegetable chopping portion was filled with many more impressive and useful tricks.

Once the roasted vegetables were prepped and ready, Allison broke out the wine. After one glass everyone was joking and interacting even more. Jennifer, one of the middle-aged women added about three times as much ginger as she should have to the stir fry sauce we were whisking.

She quickly grabbed the guy who came with a custom-made World of Warcraft apron and told him to take over stirring while she chopped more garlic. “Oh my god, you messed it up! Look at all that ginger you put in there,” she said playfully.

We laughed and worked together to extract the ginger and it became the ongoing joke of the evening. I bonded, laughed and learned as we chopped, stirred and sautéed our way to a tangy, wholesome stir fry topped with an over-easy egg. The vegetables were by far the best part of the meal. The simple olive oil, sea salt and herb de provence mixture was simple enough to allow the fresh, natural flavors of the vegetables to shine through.

By the time we ate and slurped up the last of the simple yet delicious fogatto (coffee and ice cream dessert) I had learned basic yet valuable cooking tips, knife skills, recipe ideas, modifications and techniques I had never even heard of before. All of that in good company for $35? Yes please! Not to mention, $35 is on the lower end for Columbus cooking classes. I would give this class and the patient and knowledgeable instructor Allison a thumbs up (Get it?!).

  • Food = 5/5 Stars
  • Price = $$
  • Instruction = 5/5 Stars
  • Social Experience/Fun = 5/5
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