Home cooking classes are the new dinner party

By Jerrie Whiteley / Herald Democrat
Rebecca Clare White, on the right, with Kathleen Hagan on the left at a recent cooking class

If 2020 has taught the world anything, it is that adaptability is the key to success. Living rooms are turning into work from home offices and kitchens into everything from kindergarten play areas to classrooms for everyone from elementary students to parents wanting to learn the art of cooking.

And cooking, it seemed, was on everyone’s mind. Every social media feed around seemed to instantly fill with recipes and videos on how to make everything from the bread that was scarce at the store to a Julia Child worthy beef bourguignon.

While some were fine with finding inspiration and instruction online, others longed for a more personal connection and a way to share their knowledge with their friends.

Cecilia Payne preps the Honey Lime Sesame Crusted Mahi Mahi at a recent cooking class.

Enter area chef Rebecca Clare Wyatt helps adults turn a desire to improve their cooking skills into an event that is part cooking class and part dinner party right in their own homes.

Trained as both a personal trainer and a chef, Wyatt has written a cookbook on her style of turning healthy ingredients into meals her physical fitness clients could enjoy while without ruining their progress.

But cooking didn’t start out to be part of the package. She started to notice her clients were struggling to keep to the diets needed reach their goals. Luckily, her in-laws just happened to be classically trained European chefs who were only too happy to share their insights and tricks of the trade with her. She spent 11 years soaking up their love of turning fresh ingredients into fine food and then started sharing those skills with her clients.

Melida Alshire, Michelle Castle and Lisa Hitchcock work on the meal at a recent class.

Over the years those lessons turned into an event of sorts that takes place in other people’s homes. In recent months, several of the classes have happened in the Grayson County area. The whole thing usually starts with a friend of a friend telling someone about an event that they attended. Then Wyatt gets a call about setting up a party. Generally, she said, the group is made up of people who want to learn about cooking but also to share the evening and some great food together.

Wyatt works with the host or hostess of the party to decide how many people are expected at the event. Then Wyatt goes to work. “Once the menu is designed, I do all of the shopping and bring whatever we need for the cooking class.” When she first arrives at the event, she has to get the group talking about their skill and comfort level in the kitchen.

“I teach the classes with a hands on approach. Because people learn by doing, I guide them through the prep and preparation. They do most of the work. It’s more permanent that way.”

Kathleen Hagan and her sister Terry tasting the food that was prepared at a recent party.

It also allows the group to share and experience that they will talk about for weeks to come and remember anytime any of them dine together in the future. Wyatt said people tend to relax around the kitchen and everyone enjoys a meal more if they helped to prepare it.

Giving them a memorable experience is grounded in Wyatt’s preparation and skill level. In addition to writing her own cookbook a couple of years ago, Wyatt’s culinary resume includes, “private chef work for the family that owned the Chap D’or mansion *the biggest house in Texas) and culinary work for the Texas Bluebonnet Retreats.” Wyatt explained that last job required her to do all of the special needs menu design and cooking for terminally ill cancer patients.

Some of the delicious food cooking at a recent class.