Sunday, January 31, 2010

Now Weir Cooking!

If you could support a really good cause, take in a cooking demonstration by a famous chef, and eat a great meal all at the same time, wouldn't you do it? Of course you would. So I've been eager for months to check out the new-ish cooking classes offered by Homeward Bound of Marin, a nonprofit providing programs and services for homeless individuals and families based in Novato.

Yes, you did just read that correctly. In addition to providing an impressive array of services to the homeless such as housing, counseling and credit repair, Homeward Bound has a host of food-based job training programs as well. In their gorgeous, brand new facilities located in the decommissioned Hamilton Field military base, Homeward Bound runs the Fresh Starts Culinary Academy (culinary training for Homeward Bound residents and community members alike); a catering operation (Fresh Starts Catering); a business producing chocolate truffles and jellies/jams/sauces/preserves (the Halo Truffles and Halo Homemade line of fine foods); AND the Fresh Starts Cooking School... which is where I come in.

The cooking school brings in local celebrity chefs about once a month to teach demo classes to anyone who wants to sign up. The sold-out January class featured Chef Joanne Weir of PBS fame; my friend Carolyn and I were on hand to see the energetic chef in action.

The class did not disappoint. Joanne demonstrated four different recipes in the beautifully-equipped demo kitchen, and was chatty and engaging and witty and informative the entire time. She's known for her simple yet scrumptious dishes (pizzas being one of her signature dishes), and those she showed us were no exception (menu listed below). I learned some great pointers on how to hand-whip egg whites into perfect peaks; a time-saving yumm-o recipe for a bruschetta appetizer; tips on how to expertly prepare salad greens; and even some great insight into the art and craft of Tequila making (Joanne's latest cookbook is all about Tequila). She was backed up by the Culinary Academy students, who by the time her demo was complete, had made her recipes in sufficient quantities to feed the salivating room full of people.

Sausage Bruschetta

Winter White Salad

Smoked Salmon, Creme Fraiche, Caviar Pizza

Chipotle Chocolate Souffle

(Oh wait... no pictures? That's right. Too busy eating.)

Please visit Joanne's blog or website for some amazing recipes - I'm keeping all of the above ones to myself!

At any rate, I left the class feeling very well fed. And that's not necessarily just because of the great food. I really fell for Homeward Bound as an organization, and became an instant fan of the innovative ways they are helping to find solutions to homelessness. I feel a strong pull to go and volunteer for them, and am hoping I can make that happen in the near future. In the meantime, I hope to go back for more cooking classes, and if you're in the area, you should too! Next up in February: Chef Heidi Krahling of Insalata's and Marinitas. You can sit next to me - I'll be in the front row!


  1. Thanks so much for including me in your fantastic blog! What an honor!

  2. We are glad that you enjoyed the event and the food. Joanne brought such great energy ...and how scrumptious was that pizza?

    From the folks at Fresh Starts Cooking School.

  3. What a great time you had. Joanne is so gregarious and full of energy, too. She makes any class fun.