Regular Kitchen Academy classes are Monday thru Friday. On most Saturdays, however, KA provides consumer cooking classes in the morning. This is an excellent way to learn some new skills and recipes if you're interested in improving your cooking talents, but don't have the time or inclination to go to culinary school full time.
Every Saturday class is different. For example, in December the courses included such topics as holiday meals and holiday baking. There is a brochure one can pick up at KA but, unfortunately, they don't have information on these courses on their website.
KA students are invited to attend these classes and assist. You'll get paid ($10/hr), but also have the opportunity to learn and gain more experience.
Sounded good to me, so I decided to participate this past Saturday. Unlike the normal classes, which start at 6am, these consumer classes start at a much more leisurely 9am. However, those assisting show up at 8am. There were only two assistants this week, myself and Natalie, who is on the station across from mine in the regular class.
Our initial work was simple: putting together sheet trays for the students with all the ingredients they would need for their dishes, which included carrot ginger soup, ultimate Caeser salad and New England clam chowder. There were only twelve students scheduled and they'd be working in groups of three. We had to prepare four sheet trays for them and one more for the chef, so he could demo the recipes.
Once the sheet trays were complete (mostly ... the fresh clams were late), Natalie and I began prepping the goods for the chef's demo (peeling, slicing, mincing, chopping the various items). We also made the croutons for the Caeser salad (which came out darn nice).
This is sort of what I expected. However, as Natalie and I were working on prepping the clam chowder demo, Chef Guevara (who was teaching the class) sent us from PCA-1 (the beginning kitchen lab) to PCA-4 (the restaurant simulation lab). We were now tasked with assisting Chef Michael Montilla, one of Hollywood's preeminent personal chefs and a graduate of our older sister school, the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena. Chef Montilla was giving a cooking demonstration for the public. Natalie and I were to help him with whatever he needed.
This was definitely not something I had anticipated and it was also a nice test of my current skills. Unfamiliar with the PCA-4 kitchen, we had to quickly learn it and find the tools Chef Montilla needed. We also had to prep an awful lot (it seemed) of produce. I ultimately pounded about a dozen chicken breasts flat, diced 10 onions, minced 30-40 shallots, sliced 3 heads of garlic into 1/8" thick chips, and some various other production. This might not seem like much to someone with experience (and it isn't), but to a newbie like me, it was more use of my knife than I've ever done, and under time pressure as well.
Luckily, Natalie has been working in restaurants for a number of years and was familiar with some of the more advanced tasks Chef Montilla requested of us, such as rolling up and tying the flattened chicken into a nice roulade stuffed with spinach, toasted pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese. Despite our inexperience, Chef Montilla was quite gracious as we somehow managed to get everything done in time.
It was a heckuva learning experience. Not quite a true restaurant experience, but much more than a regular class. I think I'll keep participating on Saturdays.