By Anne Jones
As most new classes start, each student introduces him or herself by giving your name and the reason you’re there. In this case, we-the students-were also asked to mention if we were gluten-free, vegan or both. When my turn rolled around I (almost sheepishly) admitted that I am neither gluten-free or vegan and indeed, a (collective gasp!) meat eater who was taking Gluten-Free Vegan Masterpieces for fun. What I didn’t mention is that I also consider bacon to be the sixth food group and have concocted something I call a “skinwich” for special occasions. This would probably not sit well with my classmates who discussed their aversion for animal bi-products and overall agreement with Food Inc. during the intro. As it so happens, these sentiments typically do not settle so well with me, as I’m the first to scoff at this lifestyle; but my affection for Hostess snack cakes are catching up with my waistline and I have no plans of cutting out desserts.
Ethical arguments aside, we were all here to learn and our instructor, Korrie Chichester, was enthusiastic about teaching. Before coming to the Natural Gourmet Institute to train as a chef, she worked the nightshift at Babycakes, the uber-popular vegan bakery on the LES. Her teaching style was welcoming and informative as she demonstrated the first two recipes while we watched. Mirrored ceilings that hung above her kitchen space gave optimum views for her demonstration. We were then split up into groups of two and sent on our merry way to bake the remaining recipes. This method is used in many of the cooking classes at NGI, allowing for a hands-on approach to cooking that’s both fun and informative for students. Classes range from Indian cooking to raw food seminars and their Friday Night Dinners consisting of a 3-course vegetarian BYOB meal that’s prepared and served by students for a mere $40 is wildly popular.
My class was all about the sweets; or healthy sweet substitutes. Within four hours our group had created gluten-free vegan berry swirl brownie bites, strawberry cupcakes with vanilla bean icing, pecan chocolate chip cookies, blackberry and cherry fruit bars, triple citrus mini cakes with vanilla citrus drizzle, mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches, and roasted peach ginger muffins. I put a cookie in my (equally skeptic) husband’s lunch the next morning and it was met with rave reviews. I gladly ate my words. Along with my abundance of leftover desserts.
Natural Gourmet Institute is located at 48 W. 21st St., 2nd floor New York, NY 10010. Visit http://naturalgourmetinstitute.com/ to learn more and to find class descriptions/times.