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  • The Chopping Blog

Culinary Boot Camp with Friends

Posted by Andrea on Jul 12, 2023

It's not uncommon for couples to take cooking classes together, from date nights to wine classes to Culinary Boot Camp. We even had a proposal midway through one of the 5-day classes a couple of years ago! But it's not often that we get a group of four or more friends to take this class together. That's why we were especially excited to host a group of friends who had just graduated from Harvard Business School. Ben, Ravi, Joel and Jared traveled to Chicago from the East Coast to celebrate their graduation by taking Culinary Boot Camp together last month. 

Ben and friendsBen, Ravi, Jared, Joel


What's your Kitchen Skill Level?

Just like in every Culinary Boot Camp, there will be students of varying skill levels. Even within this friend group, the men had different experiences in the kitchen. Jaren and Ben describe themselves as starting from "square zero" while Ravi and Joel considered themselves pretty good home cooks prior to the class. "It was nice to see The Chopping Block could accommodate all different skill levels of home cooks. There were grandmothers in class who had been cooking for thirty years as well as beginners like me," said Ben. 

Ravi Jared Stovetop

Why choose The Chopping Block?

Ben and his friends had considered other cooking schools such as the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and schools in Italy and Paris, but ultimately decided they wanted a course to teach the basics of cooking with food that they would cook every day rather than just focusing on a country's specific cuisine. They did a lot of research online, but what ultimately sold them on our program were the superb testimonials from former students. They also liked the fact that we outline exactly what students will learn during each of the five days of the course on our website. 

CBC Summary for Landing PageWhat they didn't expect was the small student to staff ratio offered at The Chopping Block. "It made me much more comfortable in the kitchen because the chefs would float around and tell us what to do," said Ben. "The chefs and assistants were so fun to be around. I also really liked being able to try out all of the different equipment. Jared was testing three different knives each day!" said Joel. 

Jared also loved the variety of dishes made during the course, which totals over 30 different dishes and is designed to build students' confidence. He said it didn't dawn on him until he returned home that he had learned such a wide range of cooking techniques. "Even little things like whether the pan is the right temperature or when to deglaze, I don't think I fully appreciated the knowledge I had gained until I came home and started cooking. I made Coq au Vin (one of the dishes made in Boot Camp) as my first meal back to see if I could impress my fiancé and it went really well. Later, I also ended up cooking for her mom and her aunt (who are both lifelong cooks), and I made a Chocolate Soufflé for dessert. I surprised myself that I was able to replicate that dish at home on my own, and I definitely scored a lot of points for that!" said Jared.

Jared also said the chefs encouraging them to always keep their workspace tidy and neat and best practices around mise en place (a term that means "everything in its place") are lessons he has taken home with him. 

Jared stovetop

The Final Day

On the last day of Culinary Boot Camp, students work together in teams of two to create a meal that they design on their own that highlights the techniques they have learned throughout the week. Jared and Ravi made Red Wine Braised Short Ribs with Miso Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Tomato and Chili Soup.

Jared and RaviJoel and Ben made Rack of Lamb with Rainbow Carrots and Mediterranean Cheese Potatoes, Onion Rings with four different dipping sauces and a Caesar Salad that featured Chef Sara Salzinski's recipe

Joel and Ben

A Fun Shared Experience

These friends say taking this class together was an experience that they will remember for a lifetime. And since Ben used to live in Chicago, he could play tour guide and show the group some of the city's highlights such as Millennium Park and Navy Pier. "We had a whole Chicago experience. We stayed at the same place together, so we could do something each evening. We'd hang out at night and relive the day. We even turned the process of deciding who would get what vegetables to prep into a game!" said Jared. 

Ben FlipsBen agrees that taking this class with other friends expediates the process of being comfortable in the kitchen because you already know your tablemates. "We saw that by day four, the other students were becoming more comfortable around each other and chitchatting. But when you are already working with close friends, you can speak up on which dishes you want to take the lead on without feeling like you are stepping on any toes. It just made the whole week-long cooking experience more fun. It was a high energy environment and since we were friends, we were always laughing and making fun of each other. It made it a bit less academic and more fun," said Ben.

group dinner

A Real Value

In addition to fun, these men also say this one-week cooking class gave them the chance to learn a very fundamental life skill. They are all in the process of moving to or have already moved to New York City for work so the chance to be healthier and cost conscious is welcome and timely. "Cooking is a high ROI skill to spend time building because you can save money and be healthier by preparing your own food at home," said Joel. 

Joel MeatThe group also found Culinary Boot Camp to be a great value, especially considering they could split the cost of their lodging. "Although it's an expensive course, you really can see the value by the end of the week. Each student gets their own beef tenderloin, whole fish and chicken to practice butchery skills. Add to that a very small student to chef ratio with highly trained staff, all of the amazing food you eat, plus unlimited coffee, tea, soft drinks, wine and beer throughout the day, and it feels like a very good value," said Joel. 

Ravi FishBen agrees, plus admits this class put him out of his comfort zone. "Butchering was such a unique experience that I wouldn’t have attempted in my own kitchen. While learning recipes is cool, I feel like I can get a cookbook and figure out a recipe. However, in Culinary Boot Camp, we did everything from scratch under the staff's guidance and tutelage. It definitely helped me feel more comfortable cooking!" said Ben.

Boys and Fish

Gather a Group

Do you have a group of friends who you would like to take Culinary Boot Camp with? Forward them this blog and start planning. We just released dates for the first half of 2024, so you have plenty of time to plan your Chicago adventure! 

If you will be traveling to Chicago, don't miss these other Culinary Boot Camp stories:

Learn More about Culinary Boot Camp 

Topics: culinary school, culinary boot camp, Travel

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