Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Rambling: A downtown cooking school?

Posted By on Wed, Dec 28, 2011 at 9:48 AM

A few thoughts on the whole PTC/downtown campus business. I’ve kept mum on the issue, mainly because I don’t have a dog in this hunt. But I have watched it with some interest.

I can see how the appeal of watching chefs cook might be visually interesting to visitors. But the more I have muddled the thought of a cooking school downtown, the more I am convinced that maybe there’s a different direction to be pursued on that lot. I’m thinking if you want to create culinary tourism, create a culinary destination.

There are several of these around. Viking, for instance, has a handful of cooking schools across the United States, the closest one being in Memphis. There, students pay for a one-time class and learn a little something to take home with them. It’s by far not a professional student experience — but I don’t believe the average tourist is looking for that.

COOK IT:  Chef Kevin Belton teaches tourists at the New Orleans School of Cooking.
  • Grav Weldon
  • COOK IT: Chef Kevin Belton teaches tourists at the New Orleans School of Cooking.
One of my must-do activities on almost every trip to New Orleans is to visit and absorb at the New Orleans School of Cooking. I’ve been more than a dozen times over the years, and I always come away with something. But I know some folks don’t bother with notes — they’re just there for the show. I’ve written about my experience in the class. It’s entertaining and you get fed — dinner theater, if you will.

Now, yes, there are some excellent cooking classes offered in Little Rock. Eggshell Kitchen Co. does some fine ones featuring Arkansas chefs. Savory Pantry down in Hot Springs has some outreach like that, too. But to do it hands on downtown… well, there’s another draw.

If someone were to follow through with that idea, I’d suggest they pair the classroom experience with a store featuring Arkansas products and work with area chefs for kitchen tours and the like. I can see the culinary community getting behind something like that. And again, it’d be aimed at bringing more visitors into the downtown area.

There’s my two cents on the matter.

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