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Chefs Academy spices up cooking

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ake Fry, instructor at Claremont Chefs Academy, teaches a class of 10 adults how to create panna cotta with strawberry sauce and beef tenderloin with mushroom sauce. / photo by Andrew Alonzo

Jake Fry, instructor at Claremont Chefs Academy, teaches a class of 10 adults how to create panna cotta with strawberry sauce and beef tenderloin with mushroom sauce. / photo by Andrew Alonzo

Andrew Alonzo
Staff Writer

For some, cooking comes naturally while for others, it is a climb up Mount Everest. 

Wherever your cooking skills may be at, Claremont Chefs Academy is a fun and affordable way to hone your cooking talents while making something new and delicious. 

Claremont Chefs Academy is located in the Claremont Packing House where the business has been rooted for more than a decade. The long glass window on the outside gives onlookers a glimpse of the vibrant, multi-colored kitchen. Beyond the purple cabinets and radiant cutting boards, one step through the glass door will get your senses flowing and your taste buds tingling.

“We are teaching children the lifelong skill of cooking so that when they grow up, they know how to take care of themselves,” Chef Kerry Eminhizer said. “We want each class to leave with something they had never done before.” 

Guests are greeted and shown to their seat by the instructing chef.

In my case, Chef Jake Fry and Chef Eminhizer started the class with an icebreaker, asking students their favorite sauce before getting their hands and knives dirty.

Chef Fry took the lead passionately to guide students on a culinary adventure.

Chef Fry made the class his own, showing students proper techniques about how to chop, slice and crack ingredients. The academy practices the French culinary phrase “mise en place,” which translates to “everything in its place,” by prepping ingredients before diving into the cooking process. 

Chef Fry employed techniques used in restaurants before cooking the final dishes.

But no matter how succulent the tenderloins looked or how zesty the air got, proper measuring of spices, vegetables, butter, and oils had to be accounted for before moving forward toward any type of cooking. 

Chef Fry began class in an unorthodox way, with dessert: panna cotta with strawberry sauce.

The gooey, smooth jello texture of the panna cotta sambaed with the sweet and savory strawberry sauce to create an elegant flavor.

This course emphasized sauces, so the next dish students created was a blender-made Hollandaise, an emulsion of egg yolk, melted butter, and lemon juice. 

“I had seen the Hollandaise sauce and thought wow I’ve never made that before so I thought I’d give this class a try,” Martha Camacho, a La Verne resident and academy student, said.

For the appetizer, both chefs kept it simple with steamed asparagus.

Chef Fry taught students how to quickly snap asparagus off the stem before tossing the buds into a water bath for steaming.

Now came the pièce de résistance: beef tenderloin with mushroom sauce. The dish was started by preparing the beef rub which was a mixture of thyme, salt, and minced garlic.

Now this is where all your senses kick into full gear if they weren’t already.

Chef Fry came around with tenderloins to each student, encouraging and showing them how to work their mixture into the meat.

Next came the mushroom sauce that would tie a beautiful bow on top of the tenderloin. 

The mushroom sauce was made with button mushrooms (cooked until browned), minced shallots, garlic, and dried thyme all sautéed together.

As the olive oil and other ingredients sizzled in the skillet, beef stock was added until almost all the liquid was absorbed by the mushrooms.

Flour and cream were then added to the party for about five minutes to provide richness to the tenderloin blanket.

Chef Fry and Eminhizer completed all the final preparations, cooking the meat and dressing the entrees before it was time to dig in. 

The aroma in the kitchen was like no other, the garlic brought it’s signature, pungent personality that battled with the hot tenderloins for superior smell.

The shallots and mushrooms played second fiddle to the garlic and beef but no matter where you sat, your mouth was a downpour of saliva that wanted to experience all the preparations.

“They were showing us things that I’ve never learned or thought of before,” Anita Islas, a Fontana resident and student from the academy, said. “I did not know that dry ingredients and wet ingredients needed different measuring cups but now I do!”

Building from their predecessor, Young Chefs Academy, Claremont felt the need to teach kids culinary skills and recipes that were more in-depth, creative and advanced.

“I was just going over some of our old recipes and one of them was chickpeas that you just bake,” Eminhizer said. “Now just last week we showed kids how to make crème brûlée.”

The academy offers a variety of routine and specialized courses for all ages including seniors and special needs children.

Parents can also reach out to the academy and book a cooking themed party for their kids. Both chefs said by far the most requested party theme is the Pizza Party.

“You really have to find ways that kids understand cooking, even if we have to go back to ‘taco’ or ‘hamburger’ style,” Fry said. “A lot of what we do revolves around showing students what to do and why they should do it this way, like mincing garlic before they pick up the knife for example.” 

Claremont Chefs Academy is open Monday through Thursday for walk-ins and Friday through Sunday by appointment. 

For a one-time class, prices run from $27-$35 depending on the child’s age.

For adult classes, costs can run up to $60 per person.

The cost of membership is a one-time $59 registration fee and then $120 a session with added benefits. 

For more information, visit claremontchefsacademy.com or call 909-625-7505. 

Andrew Alonzo can be reached at andrew.alonzo@laverne.edu.

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