Community members in Whatcom County come together each quarter to take cooking classes from around the world at the Community Food Co-Op. These classes, called the food and wine classes, are offered through Whatcom Community College’s community education program.
Many of the classes are taught by professional chefs, and cover everything from Ethiopian food to making sushi.
“The community has really come to look to our department for short, fun classes,” said Linda Howson, the community and continuing education program specialist. “It’s all about either personal enrichment or career advancement.”
Howson said that these classes are open to any community member, and what’s being offered is often seasonal. In the fall, there are classes that focus on holiday foods or harvest vegetables, while in the summer classes offered include canning and summer desserts.
“Our whole purpose is to serve the needs of the community,” Howson said, which is why some classes are repeated more frequently than others based on popularity, like the cheese-making class.
Howson said that the instructors are talented professional or home chefs, “not only in their cooking skills but in their ability to teach. We want people who are experts in a field.”
While many of the chefs are professionally trained, like the owner of the Pacific Café, a restaurant formerly located in downtown Bellingham, anyone interested in instructing a course is encouraged to apply.
“We really invite the students of Whatcom to take advantage of these classes because they’re so much fun and you really learn a lot about cooking, and you really get to meet some dynamic chefs,” Howson said.
The classes were previously held in Sehome High School’s home economics room, which Howson said was conducive to hands-on classes. Now that the program has partnered with the Food Co-Op, the demonstration kitchen the classes are held in doesn’t allow for as much of an interactive environment.
However, each class is still a “sensory experience,” Howson said. Herbs and various ingredients are passed around so students can smell and feel them, and instructors will often call students up to help chop and do some of the preparation.
“They’re still really involved even though they don’t have an apron on,” Howson said. “There’s always eating involved.”
Each class includes sampling of the finished product as well as printed recipes for the students so they can replicate the experience at home.
Howson said each class is usually one session and lasts about two to three hours, although some are spread over the course of three weeks, like the wine tasting and cheese-making classes.
Although most classes are geared towards adults, classes are offered for parents and their children to attend together, including a class that teaches how to make gingerbread houses around the holidays.
Howson said that these non-credit classes are not covered by financial aid because the community education program is a self-supporting program, and is not state funded. Each class costs around $29 to $50, depending on what ingredients are needed. Community members interested in attending a food and wine class can register online.
A list of classes offered each quarter is provided in Whatcom’s course catalog.
The community education program strives to have all of their courses be current, Howson said. “They’re not frivolous. When people come to our classes, they’re full of rich, current information,” she said.
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