The Western Reserve School of Cooking affords college students a chance to hone and mature their abilities in the kitchen

Kristen Kotz

Western Reserve School of Cooking staff Chef Tom Johnson addresses the class prior to engaging them in the foundation of all classic cooking, the preparation of stocks. FAR LEFT As the stock is settling on the stove, Johnson goes over the complexities of

Credit: Ron Soltys

Real quick

The Western Reserve School of Cooking

Where: 140 N. Main St., Hudson

What: Cooking classes

Cost: $40-$65/session

Visit for a schedule of classes

Most college students are less than adept at making food that does not come from a can or get cooked in the microwave. The Western Reserve School of Cooking in Hudson offers culinarily challenged individuals a chance to improve their cooking skills.

The school, which has been open since 197l, offers professional classes for those interested in a career in culinary arts as well as classes for those who simply want to learn more about cooking. Students can choose from culinary classes ranging from sushi making to food and wine pairing.

Catherine St. John became the owner of the school last year. She is a 1984 graduate of the Tante Marie’s School of Cooking in San Francisco and has more than 20 years of culinary experience. She has been teaching at the Western Reserve School of Cooking for 14 years.

“We get people who just want to be better cooks and those who are in the industry,” she said.

The Western Reserve School of Cooking offers both participation and demonstration classes. Students in the participation classes get hands-on experience while the demonstration classes are lecture-based. The participation classes are limited to 10 students and cost about $20 more than the demonstration classes.

“A lot of people like the participation classes because they like doing things,” St. John said. “But there is also a value in seeing and hearing things being done.”

She also said it can be easy for people to fall behind in the participation classes.

As part of the Seafood Workshop, one of the school’s participation classes, students get the chance to go to a market and learn what to look for when buying fish and other seafood to cook.

St. John said one of the hardest things for beginning cooks to understand is what foods to substitute if they do not have something a recipe calls for. To make this easier, she focuses on the methods behind the recipe in her classes.

“I think a lot of cooking schools just teach recipes,” she said. “I think you have to teach recipes, but you should look at them as guidelines.”

Jim Davis, a 53-year-old Ravenna resident, has been taking classes at the school since 2005 and is enrolled in the professional series. He has completed nine of the required courses and hopes to graduate in July.

Davis found out about the cooking school after a friend gave him a flier she had received in the mail.

“I had always been interested in cooking and thought, ‘This was something I would like to do,'” he said.

Davis said the cooking classes helped him gain confidence. The skills he learned in cooking school allowed him to cook for his son’s wedding reception in August. He cooked 700 cheese-filled raviolis for 120 guests at the party.

“I wouldn’t have had the courage or the knowledge to even think about this without cooking classes,” he said.

Davis said taking cooking classes has allowed him to entertain his family and added that he cooks for his wife every night of the week. He also said St. John’s teaching methods have given him a better grasp on food substitutions.

“Substitutions are what killed me before,” he said. “Now I understand what I can substitute.”

Contact all reporter Kristen Kotz at [email protected].