So when I signed up for a hands-on cooking class with The Loretta Paganini School of Cooking, I was a little nervous. I’d never done any kind of cooking class before—unless you count my mom teaching me how to scramble eggs—and envisioned some kind of “Master Chef” scenario where we’d have individual stations and be responsible for an entire meal.
The reality was much more collaborative. The class, “Bacon, Bacon, Bacon” with chef William Davis at the school’s location at Fishers Foods in North Canton, had 15 students ranging from a preteen kid to older adults.
Davis walked us through the four-course menu, chock full of bacon because, as he said, “even vegetarians love bacon.” He explained different types of bacon—as it turns out, Americans are pretty sheltered when it comes to our cured meat preferences—and some of the different cooking processes we’d be using.
Then he had us divide into groups, each tackling one element of the meal scattered around the classroom.
I was on team salad, specifically “wilted spinach salad with cherry tomatoes and warm bacon vinaigrette,” with three awesome ladies who trusted me to chop tomatoes and celery with a comically large knife. After prepping our ingredients, we had some downtime while we waited for our diced pancetta to crisp. Other groups braided challah dough, cooked down tomatoes and onions into soup and prepared maple bacon gelato.
Davis and his helper walked around giving us encouragement and advice as we cooked.
When our pancetta was appropriately crispy, we added sliced garlic and celery, followed by balsamic vinegar, honey and whole grain mustard.
Davis encouraged us to taste it and adjust the vinegar/mustard/honey as we saw fit. So we added more honey, then more mustard and then a tad more vinegar.
It was pretty great. The team agreed we could have eaten it without a spoon.
Davis returned and added a lot more of everything. It tasted great, he explained, but salad dressing should always taste a little too strong on its own so it stands up to the salad ingredients.
Once he judged our dressing finished, we poured it over individual bowls of spinach and tomatoes and served the class. They loved it. I loved it.
The rest of the meal—a smoked tomato bisque with basil oil and bacon croutons, a BLT with bacon mayonnaise on challah bread, and the gelato—was also fantastic.
Everyone seemed really proud of what they had made. Which was the point; we’d made a delicious meal and learned cooking techniques we could apply to any recipe, Davis said, offering to field calls and emails from students who wanted more tips down the road.
I came home feeling a lot more confident about my abilities in the kitchen. I may not have a lot of opportunities to prove it, but I can cook.
Summer in Stark County is full of fun. We go behind the scenes to give you the insider’s experience at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Loretta Paganini’s School of Cooking and the Massillon Museum, as well as a hands-on account of learning to play disc golf and getting a VIP shopping experience at The District Boutique.