Machelle Lind's Culinary Boot Camp class in May 2022 was a unique one. She traveled from Duluth, Minnesota to take the class and met a slew of different types of home cooks: an emergency room doctor from Loyola, a 20-year-old, Janet Wong who came all the way from the Netherlands and another traveler from Brazil. She describes the group of 12 students as "a beautiful kaleidoscope of people."
Daniel and Machelle in Culinary Boot Camp
The Heart of Lincoln Square
When researching boot camp-style classes, where The Chopping Block is located was as important as the class itself to Machelle. "The Lincoln Square/Ravenswood area of Chicago is outstanding when you are learning how to cook. There’s a Savory Spice Shop, Gene’s Sausage Shop and Delicatessen right across the street, and there was even an expert on sharpening and honing knives who was recommended by one of your chefs. All of that, plus a great choice of restaurants, were within walking distance of The Chopping Block!" said Machelle. "I've traveled a lot, and this was my best vacation."
Culinary Boot Camp is our 40-hour program that is modeled after professional culinary school without the hefty time and financial commitment. You cook side-by-side professional chefs, learning important cooking techniques and the 'why' behind cooking so that you understand more than just how to follow a recipe. For Machelle, this class changed how she cooked.
A Home Cook Changed
"I'm more efficient and safe today. The Knife Skills were simply mind blowing. I learned how to quickly and safely cut an onion. I learned the importance of honing and sharpening knives, which was a big shift for me. But the biggest change is that it has made both my husband and I more adventurous. We are excited to try new foods at home. We are open to different types of restaurants, and I even try to reserve seats where we can see into the kitchens so we can watch the chefs. We think about the food we are eating, wondering if we can replicate it at home. My husband is a Minnesota boy, so he was used to just basic Midwestern cooking. Boot camp has expanded our horizons and led to some delicious food adventures," said Machelle.
Of course, there have been epic wins and still some failures in the kitchen, says Machelle. "I think my husband loves me more when I make the shrimp and pea saffron risotto that we learned in class. I was also very proud of myself when I conquered Potatoes Anna. We did it together at home, and it was scrumptious," she said. But as Machalle continues to cook through her recipe collection from Culinary Boot Camp, it's the trying times that got her thinking about adding on some virtual classes to her repetoire.
Machelle has taken three different virtual classes since graduating from Culinary Boot Camp in May:
- Knife Skills
- Building Blocks: Egg Cookery
- Building Blocks: Mother Sauces
She said she took all of these virtual classes to review what she already knew, but she found them all valuable. For example, Machelle's garden was really explosive this year, especially her San Marzano tomatoes. Those tomatoes now have a purpose in the form of tomato sauce. "Executive Chef Lisa Counts taught us how to make it, store it and freeze it so we can enjoy it year round," said Machelle.
When asked why would a Culinary Boot Camp graduate find it useful to take virtual classes as well, Machelle mentions Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers: The Story of Success. Throughout his book, Gladwell repeatedly refers to the “10,000-hour rule,” asserting that the key to achieving true expertise in any skill is simply a matter of practicing, albeit in the correct way, for at least 10,000 hours. "I'd have to cook for three hours a day for over 3,333 days straight to get to 10,000 hours. I took Culinary Boot Camp and I thought, okay, I've got forty hours in," laughs Machelle. "Every time I take a virtual class, it's like putting a deposit into my cooking bank account."
An Entertaining Dream
Machelle says she has no intention of ever cooking professionally, but she wants to be a great home chef. "When I was a little girl, I always dreamed of entertaining people, and I have yet to fulfill that dream. We seldom entertain, but I want to get really comfortable inviting people over to eat. I’ve tried a couple of times with some close friends but I don't have anything impressive to report yet. Again, I live in Minnesota so I can’t really judge by them because they love their tater tot casseroles. I may love the roasted pork loin with prunes and balsamic vinegar we learned in boot camp, but they’re asking where their tater tots are!" said Machelle.
When Machelle returned home to Minnesota after Culinary Boot Camp, she describes what she calls a "fascinating experience." "The first time I went grocery shopping, I shopped the outside of the grocery store. They always say to shop the outside because that’s where the produce, meat, dairy, bread is and inside the aisles are the processed foods like cereals and Kraft macaroni and cheese. I got to the check out line and realized that I had shopped the outside of the grocery store which meant I shopped healthier," said Machelle.
We commend Machelle on her new-found cooking knowledge and healthier habits! If you've been thinking about Culinary Boot Camp, now is the time to take action. We just added a Monday through Friday session in December over the holidays so you can spend your vacation becoming a better cook. Also, the price of this class will increase in 2023, so now is your chance to take it at the current price. If you can't join us in December, we also have registration open for the first half of 2023, with new Saturday options!