Three Historic Cities Celebrated for Hands-on Culinary Adventures
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to play chef for a day? I’m not talking about that meal kit that appears on your doorstep and contains exactly the right amount of saffron you need to make a gorgeously golden risotto. To really step into a chef’s shoes—or, Crocs™, in their case—you need an interactive, firsthand tutorial where you’re taught why there’s so much more to cooking than meets the plate.
Close the cookbooks, turn off the YouTube videos, and let a gourmet expert take you on a delicious adventure. No need to scan the internet to figure out where these one-of-a-kind culinary experiences exist. We’ve mapped out some of the Southeast’s most popular cooking classes set in historic cities. Each of these towns are brimming with fascinating background stories; not to mention an abundant number of restaurants where you can sip and sample the roots of the land. With a superior dining scene comes a magnitude of brilliant chefs, and many long to share their love for the kitchen by teaching you how to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.
The best part? You get to eat the homework.
If you’re buzzing around Savannah’s historic landmark district and looking for a lively way to take in the city’s epicurean culture—700 Kitchen Cooking School has got to be on your list. They provide both individuals and groups with exclusive personalized opportunities to engage in gastronomic escapades. In case that wasn’t enough of a luxury, the school—and its state-of-the-art kitchen—is located inside of Mansion on Forsyth Park. This former funeral home turned whimsical hotel is praised for its architecture alone (a red-brick and terra-cotta 19th century structure that mimics Savannah’s classic Southern Gothic style).
The only problem at 700 Kitchen is narrowing down which course you’ll take on, as the colorful variety reflects a range of culinary delights. If you adore the vibrant sights, aromas, and flavors of local produce—the Farmer’s Market Tour has your name all over it. You’ll master how to select the freshest goodies from the Forsyth Park Farmer’s Market and then prepare a farm-to-table meal (mimosa in-hand) with your ingredients. If you’re looking to learn more about meat-free cooking, take the Plant Based Cuisine class for a spin. You’ll dive into the world of plant-based delights and bright flavors that make vegan dishes (like butternut squash and sweet potato silk soup) light and satisfying.
To get to the heart of authentic Savannah storytelling served with a side of comfort food, the Low Country Staples session is a fan favorite. Ever wondered how Southern chefs produce cheese grits so velvety you could nap inside of them? This is your chance. No matter what course you land on or whether you’re learning with a crowd or flying solo—the opportunity to explore the minds of the school’s culinary team (like Michelin Star Executive Chef Shahin Afsharian) is a treat in itself.
To discover what it means to “Cook Between the Lines,” Chef Darin’s Kitchen Table is another interactive, educational experience where the chopping is up to you. Chef Darin’s approach is all about immersing his students in preparation, teaching them how to demystify advanced techniques, and advising them on understanding common ingredients. He’s no stranger to teaching his way through Savannah’s food landscape—as his former position was 700 Kitchen’s Cooking School Director. He developed the programs that led to the establishment being named one of the city’s “Top Things to Do” on Tripadvisor.
A strong advocate of team-building, Chef Darin even provides private classes to corporate businesses to help them develop rapport and improve the work environment. But if you’re just looking to enjoy a social activity centered around food—he’s got plenty of lesson plans that encourage creativity and ease in the kitchen.
Wilmington, North Carolina
This town is a small enough town where most natives, particularly the food enthusiasts, know the top chefs on a first-name basis. When ranking the most exceptional eateries in Wilmington, you can always count on Pinpoint to make the cut. Run by Southern kitchen wizard Dean Neff, this Lowcountry restaurant opened in downtown several years back and immediately climbed its way to the top. Luckily, there are now more ways than simply dining at Pinpoint to connect with Neff’s gastronomic genius—as he hopped on board to instruct at Wilmington’s premiere cooking school—Seasoned Gourmet.
Get the hang of oyster shucking and rub elbows with a charming chef whose catfish and grits were featured on Cooking Channel? Yes, please.
You’ve strolled the Riverwalk, hit Front Street Brewery for an icy pint, and taken Wilmington’s famed walking tour of downtown’s historic district. What’s next? All signs point to Seasoned Gourmet. This staple has been offering cooking classes for over 20 years and is the proud home of the Cape Fear Food & Wine Club. Whether you’re a local looking to change up your typical date night or a visitor in town exploring the area, Seasoned Gourmet will indulge your every desire to nerd out in the kitchen. From learning classic techniques alongside Wilmington’s most proficient experts on regional cuisine to getting to know the world of wine pairing, there’s something to scratch every curious culinary itch.
Other worthy Wilmington chefs (like Keith Rhodes of Catch and Sam Cahoon of Savorez, to name a few) have raised their hands to guide folks through fun, interactive demos showcasing their signature cuisine. Rhodes gives insider tips on Asian specialties infused with a Southern twang, and Cahoon presents a bold perspective into spicy, fresh Latin American ceviche. All instructors share a similar mission of making chef-oriented food accessible so that students receive a genuine, thoughtful experience. Whether your goal is group bonding, weekend mingling, or basic education—Seasoned Gourmet is a one-stop-kitchen-shop where you’re always guaranteed to leave full and happy.
Charleston, South Carolina
Noted for encompassing one of the nation’s most energetic restaurant scenes, it’s no surprise that Charleston boasts numerous locations where you can pick up some slicing and dicing skills of your own. Chef Bob Waggoner’s In The Kitchen series was voted as one of South Carolina’s 10 best cooking classes, and it’s the perfect place to get schooled in seasonal tastings inspired by local farmers, fishermen, and artisans.
Food Fire + Knives (FFK) is another culinary Carolina mecca recognized for breaking down the process of creating a customized menu to fit your needs. They also offer an exclusive package where you don’t even have to leave the house. Picture this for your next party: a chef arrives at your door with ingredients, equipment, cleaning supplies, and aprons. It doesn’t get much easier than that. If your space isn’t ideal, FFK also has kitchen rental options. The hands-on workshops highlight everything from the fundamentals (where you’ll grasp universal cooking techniques and master the chef’s knife) to trickier fare like Thai food.
South Carolinians rave over the European-style boutique hotel Zero George for its eclectic vibe and lush courtyard locale—but it’s equally as sought-after for its ability to help aspiring chefs and cooks hone their skills. At Zero George, guests get a front row seat in the professional display kitchen watching master chefs (like Kristen Kish—Top Chef Winner) stage exquisite plates of food. Zero George’s cooking school isn’t hands-on, but rather focuses on teaching apprentices to “get tutored in good taste.” They also get to dine on the very creation that they saw come together from start to finish (not to mention walk away with an enhanced culinary repertoire).
Earlier this year, Callie White (namesake of Charleston’s legendary Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits) trained students in approachable methods of Moroccan cuisine. What says good taste more than learning about Moroccan fare from one of Charleston’s best-known biscuiteers? Hosted in their 1804 kitchen carriage house and taught around the signature Heston range, these two-hour intimate classes are an unforgettable way to chomp into Charleston.
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