Note: I was an invited guest at one of Southern Season’s recent cooking class and received a sampling of goods, but was not otherwise paid or compensated for this post. All opinions expressed here are solely mine. Thanks, Southern Season!
My friends at Southern Season, a gourmet cooking school and food store in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, are giving away a FREE holiday gift basket (a $60 value) to one lucky Grits & Chopsticks/Charleston GRIT reader! Details are at the bottom of this post.
In the meantime, last month while we were in Charleston, Ge Ge (my five-year-old son) and I stopped by Southern Season in Mount Pleasant, which is just outside of peninsular Charleston. I’ve been by Southern Season before when we used to live in Charleston, but I’d never had the chance to try out one of their cooking classes. As it turns out, Southern Season occasionally offers kid-friendly cooking classes, and since Ge Ge loves to help me out in our kitchen at home, I thought he’d love to try a real, live cooking class. Off we went to Kids Lowcountry, a class taught by resident chef Lisa Love. At the class, we’d learn how to make pimento cheese with cornbread buttons, baked barbecue chicken and cherry cheesecake parfaits.
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We arrived pretty early for our class, which, in retrospect, was probably a misstep on the hubby and my part. Ge Ge is, after all, just a kindergartener, and, as any parent knows, attention spans drain pretty quickly in that age group. At first, Ge Ge was just as excited as we were to explore the store — running around, quite literally, like a kid in a candy store. The hubby was decidedly more restrained until he happened upon the huge sampling of hand-crafted bitters (many of them local) that Southern Season keeps in stock. The hubby loves to use bitters in his cocktails, and their sampling gave us tons of ideas for ways we might be able to use them in the future.
See? Soo many.
Eventually we made our way into the cooking school, a huge, brightly-lit room with modern appliances and gorgeous white cabinetry with marble countertops. Imagine a dream kitchen, and then multiply that by three, and you’re approaching the massive size of this room. It’s very impressive.
The class began with an immediately appealing activity for young ones — pounding chicken breasts to make the baked barbecue chicken. We were in a class with about ten other kids and their parents or grandparents, and so we crowded around a long table lined with parchment paper. Chicken breasts dotted the paper every foot or so, and then a generous couple of layers of plastic wrap topped the chicken breasts. The kids all took turns pounding the daylights out of their chicken, which proved to be very cathartic for everyone. I really appreciated that Chef Love constantly reminded the kids (and parents) to wash their hands, and to avoid touching the chicken directly for food safety reasons.
Within a few minutes, we were all engaged in a variety of tasks, from whisking together ingredients to make the barbecue sauce to adjusting the seasoning in the pimento cheese. Chef Love, along with a crew of volunteers, did a great job of helping kids find tasks that suited their ages and skill levels. The age range in our class among the kids varied quite a bit, but I could tell right away that Ge Ge was by far the youngest participant. In retrospect, I think he might need a few years before he really gets into cooking classes. It was hard for him to reach the countertops without a stool to see what he was doing, and he’s a little bit hesitant to be around the stove. The older kids were very involved in every step of the process, even blackening a red bell pepper directly over the gas flame on the stove.
The most impressive part of the class was not only how efficiently we moved through each step of the recipes we made, but also how amazingly simple and easy everything was to make. Cornbread “buttons” (or mini cornbread muffins) were mixed and baked in less than 15 minutes, and the kids all had a hand in whipping up a pimento cheese spread in no time. Even the baked barbecued chicken roasted in the oven in under 20 minutes. While the final product (chicken, cornbread and pimento cheese) wasn’t the fanciest meal, it certainly helped show parents and their kids how easy pulling together a delicious meal doesn’t have to take hours in the kitchen.
Of course, Ge Ge’s favorite part was making dessert. He loved crushing the pepper kakor (ginger cookies) in a plastic bag and layering parfait cups with cherry pie filling, creamy cheesecake and crumbled cookie crust. I stuck to our normal deal and didn’t let him have dessert until he’d eaten all of his cornbread and most of the chicken, which he happily did. That cheesecake parfait was so worth it.