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Photo by Paul Strabbing

There are dozens of places to sharpen your culinary skills in this gastronomically obsessed city—from cooking schools to cooking parties—but what better way to master the art of fine cuisine than to learn from the maestros themselves? We rounded up some of our favorite restaurant cooking classes to take you out of the classroom and into the trenches.

Little Goat

The Little Goat Diner offers twice monthly cooking classes for 10-12 participants in their cozy private event space. The classes are open to the public, but private parties can also be accommodated. Classes cover a diverse array of topics—from cooking seasonally to pastry to bread making—and the level of participation varies with the class topic. Beverages are provided throughout the lesson, and the experience culminates with a multi-course dinner served family style. $85 per person includes meal and beverages. Classes are announced on their Facebook pageLittle Goat Diner, 820 W. Randolph St., Chicago, 312-888-3455

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Photo courtesy of Little Goat.

Brindille

I had the opportunity to try out Chef Carrie Nahabedian’s cooking class at Brindille first hand. The class is lead by Nahabedian and Brindille pastry chef Craig Harzewski. Classes are offered one to three times per month and tailored to participants’ interests, but, says Nahabedian, “I like to make a dinner party.” The students in my class had pre-requested a Midwest-centric menu, which included a fish course, meat course and dessert. In our matching striped aprons and cradling cups of good coffee, we got behind the line with Nahabedian as she demonstrated the preparation of each course, doling out nuggets of culinary wisdom along the way. The experience was casual and surprisingly intimate, like shadowing the family matriarch in her home kitchen as she skillfully recreates heirloom dishes from memory. After our lesson, we sat in the Brindille dining room for a private three-course meal complete with thoughtful wine pairings. $175 per person includes lunch, wine and recipes. Brindille, 534 N. Clark St., Chicago, 312-595-1616

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Photo by Paul Strabbing.

The Salsa Truck

By day you can catch the Salsa Truck’s mobile Mexican food truck as it roams Chicago slinging tacos and quesadillas, or belly up to their brick-and-mortar location, The Garage. By night, you can spice up your culinary routine with one of their salsa-making classes, or brush up on your knife skills. Classes for six to twenty guests are hosted out of The Garage once a month, based on demand. Chef Dan Salls says, “I want our guests to take the tools and techniques from a professional kitchen and apply them not just to Mexican cuisine, but anything they would want to cook at home.” Classes are BYOB and hands-on, so bring a six-pack of Modelo and dig in! Price ranges from $40-$70 and include a post-lesson taco feast. For more info, email salsatruckevents@gmail.com or call The Garage at 312-344-1784

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Photo by Paul Biasco.

One Off Hospitality Group

One Off Hospitality, the restaurant group behind some of the best dining in the city (avec, Blackbird, The Publican, etc.) offers a monthly Master Cooking Class series, featuring a rotating cast of chefs de cuisine from their various restaurants as master instructors; once a year Executive Chef Paul Kahan takes the helm. Classes are structured as demonstrations with guests gathered around the chef’s table. $300 for Kahan’s class; $175 for all others. Includes full meal and beverages. For more info, contact Ashley at 312-496-0012 or ashley@publicanqualitymeats.com

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Photo courtesy of Publican Quality Meats.

One Off Hospitality also runs a series of beverage classes for those inclined to tipple. Topics on offer include Syrup 101 and Seasonality and The Evolution of the Cocktail. Prices for beverage classes range from $65-$150. Contact Aubrey@theviolethour.com for more info.

Nieto’s

Nieto’s in Highland Park takes an intimate approach to the typical cooking class. Carlos and Debbie Nieto host private classes of six to eight people in their log home in Antioch. Led by Nieto’s executive chef, Ramiro Velasquez, they are designed to suit students’ preferences, but typically comprise a multi-course meal. Participants can choose to get their hands dirty in the kitchen or sip a cocktail and watch chef Velasquez do his thing. $250 per person includes cocktails, a multi-course meal with wine pairings and recipes. For more info, contact Debbie Nieto at 847-432-0770

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Photo Courtesy of Carlos and Debbie Nieto.

Belly Shack/bellyQ

Chef Bill Kim regularly offers a dynamic array of cooking classes at both bellyQ and Belly Shack, with spots available for up to 20 people. Topics cover a wide range—from grilling to dumplings and cocktails—and feature Kim’s signature blending of Latin and Asian influences. On the menu this month at bellyQ is a brunch class where, among other items, students will learn how to make nori waffles with sake maple syrup—yum! Classes are typically structured as demonstrations and run about 2 hours. $50 includes lunch and a beverage. For more info, contact bellyQ at 312-563-1010 or Belly Shack at 773-252-1414

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Photo by Connor Rudny.

Floriole

Floriole Café and Bakery shares its secrets for perfect French pastry in their monthly macaron class. Up to eight participants prepare macarons under the tutelage of Chef Sandra Holl and her staff in the Floriole kitchen, while nibbling on appetizers like cheese straws, stuffed dates and salads. Brunch and bread classes are also on the horizon. $80 includes snacks and soft drinks; beer and wine available for purchase. For more info, contact Floriole Café at 773-883-1313 or email cafe@floriole.com

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Photo by Karly Brunner.

 3 More Ways to Play with Your Food:

Found Kitchen and Social House, Evanston

Catch the play-by-play of your meal as it’s being prepared at Found’s Chef’s Counter. The counter surrounds the restaurant’s wood stone oven and allows diners a uniquely proximate vantage point, plus the opportunity to chat with the chef about ingredients and cooking techniques. Chef Nicole Pederson playfully refers to it as “dinner and a show.” Seating at the Chef’s Counter is first-come first-serve. Found, 1631 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847-868-8945

Bar Toma, Chicago

Learn to throw some dough in Bar Toma’s pizza tossing classes. The private two-hour classes, taught by executive chef Erik Freeberg, are available for parties of 10 or more and include extras like antipasti and a welcome cocktail. Packages start at $28 per person. For details, contact sales manager Johnathon Paszkiet at 312-266-3113

Restaurant Michael, Winnetka

Spend a day in the kitchen with Chef Michael Lachowicz for a rare glimpse behind the scenes of a fine dining restaurant, Restaurant Michael. For $450, you and a friend can sip wine and hang with the line cooks during dinner prep. Participate as much or as little as your skillset allows. Wine, chef coat and apron are provided, and the evening is capped off with a five-course tasting menu enjoyed in the dining room. To reserve a spot, contact the restaurant at 847-441-3100