North Forty News
Somewhere back in the Dark Ages, cooking and baking were traditionally thought of as “women’s work.“ Dumb notion, because so many world-class chefs and bakers are men. We’re not talking about half-raw, lighter fluid-scented burgers falling through the BBQ rack onto blackened coals.
Gourmet dishes in cities like Paris, Rome, New York and Los Angeles are frequently prepared by illustrious male cooks. Put your name on a waiting list for a table at an exclusive dining establishment, and it’s likely owned by a famous male chef. When men cook, the recipe is usually far more appetizing than a ground-up chunk of deceased bovine tucked between two halves of a stale bun slathered with cheap condiments.
Trish O’Neill knowingly vouches for that. In 2015, she founded The Cooking Studio (TCS) in Old Town Fort Collins. Located in Opera Galleria, the school offers a wide variety of year-round classes for adults, teens and children. Since its oven doors first opened three years ago, TCS has taught nearly 5,000 people how to prepare wonderfully luscious recipes. Of those students, approximately 2,000 were men.
Said O’Neill, “The traditional women in the kitchen and men at the BBQ mentality is fading from our culture. Some of our older participants still think this way, but very few of the younger ones do. Many of the men we see in class are the family cook and do it gladly, not as a chore.”
She further noted that men in her classes are interested in the same foods and recipes as are women, with the exception of cake decorating. So far, quite a few young boys have been interested in adorning sweet treats with fanciful frostings, but adult men haven’t.
TCS provides detailed information and personal attention to its students, O’Neill added. “All classes are 100% hands-on, meaning everyone is cooking. Each class is three hours long, which includes review of the recipes with the chef instructor, cooking with a team of two or three others, plating the dishes and eating together family style.”
Definitely not an accidentally flaming burger and rancid potato salad on a paper plate!
Are TCS male students all metrosexual types? No. O’Neill sees men ranging from very experienced, skilled cooks seeking new recipes and ideas for their daily cooking, to men who never cook but are beginning to since the obsolete “women’s work” culture was dumped down the garbage disposal.
Most men O’Neill sees in classes are typically either young and childless, or older professionals whose kids are teens or in college. These men are very ‘into’ cooking and have been overheard sharing recipes, techniques and tips, such as the best menu for a first date or how to incorporate your teen’s budding vegetarianism within a traditional family meal. A high percentage of people who take the Culinary Skills Series of classes (taught more like those in professional culinary schools than are TCS’s normal classes) are men.
Men and women cook in very similar ways. If there is a difference, explained O’Neill, it’s that most men consider cooking an art and privilege, and they cook well. Women, in general, see cooking as a bit of an imposition, chore or —on the positive side—a way to release stress through creative expression.
One interesting dissimilarity O’Neill mentioned is that males are much messier when they cook than are females. Work stations used by the most men are always the messiest ones, whereas women students are more inclined to clean as they go. Clean now, clean later—whether the method is a coincidental personal preference or gender-specific trait is not as important as the finished product: healthy, terrific food!
The Cooking Studio conducts team-building events for many local companies. This seems to be a very attractive type of group activity for work teams with a majority of men. Men love competition and regard friendly team rivalry as great fun. TCS presents awards for Best Use of a Secret Ingredient; Best Presentation of a Dish; and Best Overall Team. Men participating in these team challenges are often very skilled cooks who enjoy sharing information about what they cook at home.
Interest in TCS is like a yeast-rising bread: It just keeps growing.
“Most of our advertising is organic,” said O’Neill, who expanded that category to include word-of-mouth, neighbor-to-neighbor, and visibility as silent auction items at non-profit fundraisers. Also, men who participate with a company team “discover” other TCS programs, such as Date Nights, which O’Neill touts as the most popular class. It’s a big win for the men who buy the tickets. The couple bonds over shared experience, not just dinner someone else has prepared. Plus, they meet other couples in class, later exchange emails, and often make plans to get together again.
“Last year, some men figured out that they got a BIG win if they bought the New Year’s Eve Date Night class for their wife/girlfriend for Christmas,” reported O’Neill. “Sort of a double win since they got credit for a togetherness activity and had pre-planned New Years Eve!”
Many men receive gift certificates for classes from family members/friends. What a delicious present! Men learn from professional chefs, compare how many other men love to cook, and perhaps take over some food prep duties at home.
Others hear about TCS from the women in their lives: professional colleagues, executive assistants, wives, mothers and sisters. Colorado State University students hear about the classes while on campus.
Once a man learns enough to become the star and master of his own kitchen, how and where does he stock its drawers, shelves and pantry? One good resource is The Cupboard on College Avenue in downtown Fort Collins. Associate Laurie advised that the exciting, 2-story establishment (which also stocks cookbooks, baskets, linens, woodenwares and much more) carries a complete line of baking and cooking equipment, as well as barbecue supplies. Spices, jams, teas, in-store ground coffees, soups, candies, cookies and other foods—many imported—are available, too!
The longtime, locally reknowned Old Town store occasionally has live demos open to the public. And its website, www.thecupboard.net, includes videos as basic as “How to Cook an Egg” to far more complex food prep instructions. Upcoming events are also listed on the site. The Cupboard’s hours are Monday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-8:00 p.m, and Sunday, 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Anyone desiring information on The Cooking Studio’s class schedules is invited to visit http://the-cooking-studio.com. Be sure to also follow their Facebook page at thecookingstudiofc.