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A Cook’s Trail of Classes that Capture the Diverse and Exciting Flavors of New Mexico

Jane Butel Class

When you visit the Land of Enchantment this year, bring home a true souvenir that will far outlast your vacation:  take a culinary class.  You won’t have to worry about how to fit it into your suitcase, and you will gain new culinary skills, memories, and friends that you will always treasure.

RECIPE FOR CULINARY ADVENTUREMake tapas in Taos.  Design your own chocolate bar in Albuquerque.  Curdle cheese in a real creamery.   Bake Native bread in a Pueblo horno.  Recreate the recipes of Georgia O’Keeffe.  All across the state, chefs are eager to share their joy of cooking with you.  Whether you have a week or just an hour or two, the options are endless.  Here’s just a sampling of the fun you can have cooking your way through New Mexico:

Taos:  Cooking with an Actor and through Artists’ Eyes 
Teaching cooking is Chris Maher’s second act, following a successful acting career that included feature films and television shows.  Compelled to return to his Egyptian culinary roots, Chris applied that same passion to food – working in New York’s famous Tavern on the Green, catering, opening his own restaurants, and cooking for The Dalai Lama and President Bill Clinton.   His acting career and other life experiences add spice to his classes at Cooking Studio Taos.  With his mastery of various ethnic cuisines, his classes are like taking a trip around the world., 575-776-2665,

RECIPE FOR CULINARY ADVENTUREYou might not expect to learn cooking at the Taos Art School, but owner Ursula Beck likes to combine two or more art forms in her eclectic curriculum of classes and trips.  “The Artist in the Kitchen” (Sept. 14-20, 2014), celebrates three artists who expressed their passion for art and food in very different ways:  Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, and R.C. Gorman.  “We’ll cook their foods and look at the connections between their food and their art,” says Ursula.  This summer’s immersive “Farm to Table” class (July 13-19, 2014) takes 12 students into the home kitchen of Elena Arguello, whose family has farmed in northern New Mexico for several generations.  Students learn how to prepare summer’s bounty of produce from small local farms in traditional and non-traditional ways., 575-758-0350,

Embudo to Santa Fe:  Preparing Local Cuisines in Outdoor Wood-Fired Ovens
Norma Naranjo’s mother and grandmother taught her the art of baking bread and pies in their horno (beehive-shaped adobe oven) at the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, and over the years she was frequently asked to prepare her traditional dishes for special events.  When she retired, she decided to start The Feasting Place, catering and teaching others how to prepare the dishes typically prepared for a Pueblo feast.  Norma’s half-day classes welcome small groups into her cozy Pueblo home in Espanola, where she highlights local ingredients  and shares cultural traditions.  You’ll learn to make a variety of traditional dishes; sit-down feasts for up to 40 people are also available., 505-753-6767,

There is no better way to spend a Saturday morning than in a lovely vineyard, preparing and eating a delicious meal while tasting award-winning wines.  At Estrella Del Norte, New Mexico’s only vineyard winery, cooking classes are taught by both the Santa Fe School of Cooking and Santa Fe Culinary Academy, whose chefs each bring their individual cooking styles and personalities.  All classes feature Southwestern foods prepared with the patio’s wood-fired oven and grill, and include a discussion of the local wine industry, dating from the 1600s (New Mexico is the country’s oldest grape-growing state) to, 505-455-2826,

Santa Fe:  Where a Cooking School is Always in Session 
For more than 20 years, the Santa Fe School of Cooking has educated people from all over the world about the flavors of the Southwest.  Hands-on classes explore the finer points of individual dishes and sauces or tackle complete meals.  In February, March, and April, the school teams up with the O’Keeffe Museum to explore recipes from the book, The Painter’s Kitchen, Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O’Keeffe by Margaret Wood; the author will share her personal stories and insights into the life of the well-known artist.  The school also offers three-day culinary boot camps, restaurant walking tours, and much, 505-983-4511,

RECIPE FOR CULINARY ADVENTURESince 1998, Las Cosas Kitchen Shoppe in the DeVargas Shopping Center has hosted classes by Chef John Vollertsen, known to his all as “Johnny Vee.”  His experience spans restaurants from New York City to Sydney, Australia, and his classes display his broad knowledge and enthusiasm.  Classes explore seasonal dishes, ethnic cuisines, high-altitude baking, and more.  John also teaches regular classes at Kitchen Kraft in Las Cruces.  With John in the kitchen, a party atmosphere and plenty to eat are guaranteed., 505-988-3394,

Whether you aspire to become a professional chef or just want to learn a new culinary skill, the newly opened Santa Fe Culinary Academy has you covered.  Heading up its staff is Santa Fean Rocky Durham, a classically French-trained chef who has cooked professionally on five continents.  You can choose from a roster of three-hour classes on everything from butchery to pastry making, or you can enroll in a four-day intensive and really impress your friends at home. www.santafeculinaryacademy, 505-983-7445,

Corrales:  A Historical Perspective on Southwest Fare 
Founded by a leading international authority on the cuisine of the American Southwest and regional Mexican cooking, the Jane Butel Cooking School was named one of the world’s four best by Bon Appetit magazine.  You will learn why chiles have been revered for thousands of years by the ancients and how blue corn evolved as the essential grain that kept the Anasazis alive.  Jane’s weekend and week-long workshops in the historic village of Corrales are hands-on and include a get-acquainted reception, Southwestern continental breakfasts, and a full dinner, accompanied by Jane’s “perfect margaritas.”, 505-243-2622,

Albuquerque:  Live Your Chocolate Fantasy and Visit a Working Farm
In Grace Lapsys’ native Philippines, eating tsokolate, or chocolate,was a way of life.  Reigniting her passion for chocolate as an adult, she enrolled in chocolatier schools in British Columbia and France and traveled to Europe’s top chocolate destinations for inspiration before opening Joliesse Chocolates in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque.  At Grace’s small classes and workshops, you’ll learn chocolate’s history, art, and science as you make your own truffles and bars.  Take home your goodies (if they last that long).  505-369-1561,

Guests can stay and dine at Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm, set among 25 acres of lavender fields, enormous cottonwood trees, and lush formal gardens.  From October through March, on the first Sunday of each month, you can also hone your culinary skills in the farm’s 1930s kitchen.  Executive Chef Jonathan Perno’s hands-on classes focus on seasonal foods and are followed by a sit-down dinner., 505-344-9297,

Estancia:  Become a Cheese Whiz
At The Old Windmill Dairy, when you say “cheese,” you can also make it.  The Estancia farm is home to Ed and Michael Lobaugh’s Nubian goats and a creamery, where you can learn the fine art of cheese-making and taste their award-winning chèvres, cheddars, goudas, and blue cheeses.  Their half-day beginning class will teach you how to inoculate the milk; curdle, hoop, and drain the cheese; and stretch mozzarella.  In the six-hour advanced class, you’ll create your own semi-hard cheese which will be shipped to you three months later, after it ripens – bearing your own personal label.  Warning: wear old clothes for this class, as sometimes goats like to nibble on jackets., 505-384-0033,


If you’re planning a ski vacation in the Land of Enchantment during New Mexico Restaurant Week(February 23 – March 1, 2014), make sure you catch a few of the one- to two-hour classes taught by local chefs and bartenders in their restaurants.   This once-a-year opportunity gives epicureans a chance to interact with the pros and learn some new culinary techniques before enjoying the value-priced dinners offered that week.  Past classes have run the gamut from how to make gnocchi and empanadas to “The ABCs of Sake” and “Cocktail Crafting from the Masters.” (click on “Events” in each city), 505-847-3333,