The Champagne Life on a DIY Budget Since 2007

Retail Cooking Classes for Recessionistas

free cooking classes mall

Budget-friendly cooking classes at local adult education centers and community colleges have long been a fun and cheap option for a date night or girls night out activity, even more so since the economy went down the garbage disposal. But, many household-name retailers in gourmet foods and house wares also offer affordable cooking classes in their stores — some of them are even free.

Take advantage of the offerings at your local mall this fall by signing up for a free or low-cost cooking class or demonstration. Your roommates, friends, and family members will thank you for enhancing your culinary chops, plus many of these retailers offer big discounts on day-of-class purchases — great for putting extra miles in your holiday shopping budget.

Williams – Sonoma
Classes at this 50-year-old stalwart in kitchenware are definitely for the traditionalists and the hard-core home chef: it’s all about technique and advancing particular skills through product demos and niche cooking classes, which range in price from free (for technique classes, “which are more watch and learn demonstrations than hands-on cooking classes”) to about $90 to $130 for seasonal cooking classes, according to a customer service rep at our closest retail location. However Williams-Sonoma stores also offer regular book signings with famous chefs and cookbook authors, as well as other exclusive, free events. Sign up for their email newsletter to stay abreast of special offers.

Sur La Table
Another mainstay of California cuisine, Sur La Table offers dozens of monthly cooking classes at its stores in Arizona, New York, Ohio, California, Washington, Utah, New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, Oregon, Texas and Virginia — as well as opportunities to design your own class or host a private event. As we learned from a Sur La Table customer service representative, “In some of the classes you don’t get to eat what you cook, so make sure to ask beforehand!” Prices run from $59 to $89 for single-day, hands-on classes (where you do get to eat what you cook), to $240 for some of the three-part series classes (new this year). Check with your local Sur La Table or sign up for their email newsletter to find out more about cooking classes in your area.

Best known for its Swedish meatballs and affordable cafeteria fare, IKEA has now teamed up with Family Circle magazine to present Food University, a series of two-hour, free cooking seminars and food demonstrations making stops at IKEA stores this fall. Locations, dates and star chefs include Seattle (Oct. 20, Caprial Pence), Costa Mesa, Calif. (Oct. 22, Katie Chin), Tempe, Ariz. (Oct. 28, Claudine Pepin), Sunrise, Fla. (Nov. 3, Oliver Saucy) and College Park, Md. (Nov. 5, Mary Ann Esposito) for two-hour seminars that promise an introduction to ingredients, tips on entertaining and spicing up a menu as well as healthy family recipes. (via SlashFood and MediaWeek)

Viking Showrooms
Reality show cooking and product placement aside, every home chef this century has at one point dreamed of owning or at least regularly making meals in a Viking-clad kitchen. Viking showrooms throughout the country now offer hands-on cooking classes using their state-of-the-art equipment, which start at $59 for Kids & Teens and $89 for Adults. “Date Night” classes are comparable in price to dinner for two at a three- or four-star restaurant ($109 and up), plus every dollar spent on a Viking cooking school class earns chefs 1 Viking Rewards point towards an appliance purchase, up to 15% of the total price ($1 = 1 point). A great way to get a top-notch culinary education while road-testing prior to purchasing some of the best investment pieces for your kitchen.

Stonewall Kitchen
The limited-attendance and private cooking classes from this gourmet foods brand are offered at their York, Maine flagship store as well as newer outposts in Portland, ME, South Windsor, CT, and National Harbor, MD. Stonewall’s cooking school offerings are in high-demand with home chefs of all budgets — and for a reason. Classes are often taught by noted restaurant chefs and cookbook authors from around the nation, generally run between $50 and $100 per person, and include a 10% day-of-class discount for all students on purchases made in the Stonewall Kitchen store.

The Chopping Block
Cooking classes at these two Chicago stores run between $40 and $75, and are offered every day of the week for both kids and adults. Day-of-class discounts on retail merchandise are also 10%, with 15% day-of discounts on any cookware or other items used during the cooking class. You can also BYO beer and wine pairings for a $5 or $10 corkage fee, respectively, making it a great way to enjoy a girl’s night out or unique date night.


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