Sure, the weather outside is frightful. That's why it feels so good to hide away in a toasty kitchen this time of year, surrounding yourself with the sights, sounds, and aromas of great cooking. Happily, winter schedules for the region's two top cooking schools -- The Loretta Paganini School of Cooking (8613 Mayfield Road, Chesterland) and the Western Reserve School of Cooking (140 North Main Street, Hudson) -- have recently hit the streets, and there are opportunities aplenty for Cleveland-area gourmets to indulge their culinary passions. Even if you don't know your Henckels from a hole in the ground, both schools have classes to appeal to the diner, if not necessarily the cook, in you.
Chefs on parade . . . The regularly scheduled Restaurant Sampler classes at Western Reserve School of Cooking provide an unparalleled opportunity to see the region's finest chefs in action, and this season's series is no exception. This time around, the visiting luminaries will include nifty Norbert Peissert (Pier W) on February 19; smokin' Steve Parris (Fulton Bar and Grill) on February 26; terrific Todd Stein (Sans Souci) on March 5; righteous Roger Thomas (Piatto) on March 19; and jammin' Jonathan Bennet (Moxie) on April 2. The chefs will prepare some of their signature creations before your very eyes, dishing out tasty little samples as they go. While they're busily dicing, slicing, and sautéing, chances are good that you can also get them to chat about their style, dispense helpful home-cooking hints, and even dish a little dirt about the local restaurant scene. The Monday night classes ($28 for a single; $120 for the series) run from 7 to 9:30 p.m.; register by calling the school at 330-650-COOK. The entire winter/spring 2001 class schedule can be viewed on the school's website, www.wsrsoc.com.
Sitting pretty . . . If the Hudson tidbits whet your appetite for more filling fare, check out the Dinner at the Chef's Table series at Loretta Paganini's lovely Chesterland facility. For about the same price as a meal at a downtown restaurant, these Saturday night dinners provide entertainment, culinary education, and wonderful ethnic cuisine, all dished up at long communal tables inside the school's spacious professional kitchen. This season's events include a Bolognese Dinner created by La Paganini herself on January 13, a Chinese New Year Celebration with chef-author Rosa Ross on January 20, a New England Jubilee with Bostonian Shawn O'Connell on February 3, a Romantic Valentine's Dinner under Paganini's guidance on February 10, a Mardi Gras Celebration with Louisiana native Stefanie Wene on February 24, an Italian Renaissance Feast with Paganini and William Martin Jean on March 10, a Japanese Dinner with the school's instructor Tim McCoy on March 24, an Italian Easter with Paganini on April 7, a Lebanese Dinner with Ted Asad and Jennifer Sinisgalli on April 21, and a Cuban Dinner with personal chef and instructor Chris Wozniak on April 28. Most of the meals cost $50 per person or $95 per couple; the Valentine blowout is $145 per couple. The school doesn't have a license to sell spirits, so it's BYO wine bottle. For details on each dinner, and to register, visit the school's website at www.lpscinc.com. Or call 440-729-COOK.