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Category — Classes

a torte and a little history

Linda and Barb in 2007

For the first week of my final series of classes at Les Gourmettes, I chose the menu from recipes from the very first series of classes I took from Barbara Fenzl more than 30 years ago.

Barb, Anne Willan, and Linda in Barb’s kitchen

I’m not sure if I’ve ever shared the story of how I came to work for Barb at Les Gourmettes Cooking School. With these next two weeks of classes being the last, now seems like a good time.

Linda, Lydie Marshall, and Barb in Lydie’s kitchen in NYC

In the fall of 1988, when my daughter, Marissa, was not yet 1-year-old, I first learned that there was a cooking school in Phoenix called Les Gourmettes. Our local newspaper, The Arizona Republic, used to have a glorious Food & Dining Section. It was massive compared to what you find in the paper today. At least once a month, there was a “Food Calendar” and Barb’s school was listed there. It was one of, if not the only, avocational cooking schools in town back then.

Barb, Linda, some dude, and Julia Child at James Beard Awards in NYC

We didn’t have much money to spare, but I splurged and signed up for the series of three classes. I loved it! I was hooked! Now I was on the mailing list, so when the schedule for the next semester came around, I not only signed up for Barb’s series again but also for Jacques Pepin’s class.

This photo was taken in 1998 in San Francisco, 9 years after I first assisted Jacques at Les Gourmettes in 1989.

I adored Jacques. I had several of his cookbooks and Jacques would come to the Scottsdale Culinary Festival in those days and I went to see him whenever he was in town.  The series was first, and after each class, I would tell Barb that I was a stay-at-home mom, and if she ever needed anything, I would run around town to get it for her. I assured her I knew how to cook, that I had worked for a respected caterer in town, and that I personally catered on the side. I had a growing cookbook collection and I rarely made the same recipe twice because I loved to create and experiment. Basically, I was not only passionate about cooking, but I was also good at it.

During the time between Barb’s series and Jacques’ class, Barb’s assistant had to leave and get a full-time job. All my offers of help had paid off! Barb called to see if I’d be interested in apprenticing as her assistant, starting immediately. I was over the moon!

Not only was I going to work in a cooking school, but I was also going to assist Jacques Pepin! And the cherry on top – I was going to be refunded the money I had paid for Jacques’ class. That was huge for us back then! We had a new baby, I had recently been in a serious car accident and bills were piling up. Dave had just been made a partner at his CPA firm and we were making very large monthly payments for his buy-in.

Julia Child and Linda at an IACP conference

As they say, the rest is history. I’ve been with Barb for 30 years. Working there lead to me opening my own children’s cooking school, to dozens of articles in the newspaper, in national parenting magazines, local TV appearances, starting this blog, meeting and working with the likes of Julia Child and Emeril Lagasse, teaching Larry Fitzgerald to cook and so much more. So yeah, I have a lot to thank Barbara Fenzl and Les Gourmettes for, including this recipe. Enjoy.

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May 6, 2019   1 Comment

cooking class winner

It took some teamwork to pick the winner of the cooking class with Chef Danielle Leoni at Les Gourmettes Cooking School. Okay, not as much teamwork as frustration, but we made it happen.

There were eight entries: Amy G, Betsy S, Dorinne D, Elyse G, Ginger T, Laura M, Patti T, and Sharon L.

I crumbled up each name with the intent of turning them into cat toys.

Bombay and Bailey were called into action. Whichever ball of paper was knocked off the table first, the person whose name was on the paper would be the winner. Unfortunately, they were not as interested in playing with their new toys as I had hoped they would be. I ended up having to toss a couple of kitty snacks in the mix to even get them up on the table.

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September 27, 2017   3 Comments

are you a winner?!?

It was only a month ago that I held a contest for my 8th Blogiversary and here I am – at it again!

This time, it is Barbara Fenzl, owner of Les Gourmettes, who is graciously and generously donating the fabulous prize. I’ll get to the details about the prize and how easy it is for you to have a chance to win it in just a moment.

This is the current issue of Edible PHOENIX. The publisher and editor, Pamela Hamilton along with featured contributor, Sharon Salomon, Barb Fenzl, and I are all members of Les Dames d’Escoffier International.

Every now and then, Sharon will ask me for quotes or thoughts about an upcoming article she is working on. This was the case for her most recent article titled, “Step Away From the Recipe! Try Your Hand at Intuitive Cooking”

Thank you Sharon for featuring me in your excellent article!

This clever segue leads us to the contest and the prize. Barb is offering one FREE seat in an upcoming cooking class with Chef Danielle Leoni.  Coincidentally, Danielle became one of our newest Les Dames members this past Monday night. This prize will most certainly hone your cooking skills and aid you on your way to more intuitive cooking.

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September 20, 2017   11 Comments

not 1, not 2, not 3, but…

Four winners!

Many thanks to all of you who left comments these last few days for my Free Cooking Classes giveaway.

Before I announce the winners and show you the videos of the drawing, I have a few things to say.

So… today is my birthday. I pretty much love my birthday! I love everything about it, but the thing I love most is that it’s in October and it’s at the end of October.

What makes that so special is in late October is when it finally cools down in the Arizona desert and life becomes enjoyable and the outside becomes bearable again. October is the best and the end of October is the very very best!

That is until this year.


All I can say is what the hell is this!?!!! This is the worst! How is it even possible for this to be possible? One HUNDRED degrees on October 27th is not right! Not right at all. I am mad and this is ruining my birthday!

Alright. I’m done. I just had to get that off my chest. I’d love to say I feel better now that I’ve said it, but I don’t. I’ll try not to complain about it for the rest of the day.

Now, on to the enjoyable task at hand… giving away fun stuff!

Yesterday, after the entry time ended, I wrote the eligible names down on slips of paper and took them over to my neighbor, Karin’s, house. She and I are finishing the last-minute details on our neighborhood Fall Festival, which is this Sunday. I had Karin help me videotape the drawing. I held my iPhone, while Karin folded up all the slips of paper, put them in a pot, and drew out the winners. I used the time-lapse feature on my phone for the first time.

I did… OK with it. Not great, but sufficient.  Here, you can judge for yourself:

Winner #1 for the cooking class on Tuesday, November 8th is…

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October 27, 2016   9 Comments

Free Cooking Classes!!!

It’s contest time!


To be entered to win a free cooking class, all you need to do is leave a comment on ANY post on this entire site. You can leave a comment on a recipe you’ve made. Or one you want to try. Or on a party theme, you’ve enjoyed. Or on this very post. You can say whatever you want.  “This is great!” or “I want to win.” or “Come on pick me, I never win anything!”

Here is the low-down:

You are entering to win one of four (1 of 4) spots in an evening class that I teach at Les Gourmettes Cooking School.

It would probably be best if you actually lived in the Phoenix area since that’s where the classes are held … because airfare and lodging are not included. 🙂

Classes are demonstration, they begin at 6:30 p.m. and end at 9:00 p.m. At the end of the cooking demo, we move to the dining room to enjoy the meal prepared in class. The classes are held at:

Les Gourmettes Cooking School
6610 North Central Avenue
Phoenix, Arizona 85012


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October 21, 2016   15 Comments

massage your kale

One of my favorite Valley chefs, Kevin Binkley, was the teacher at Les Gourmettes this week. I’ve mentioned Kevin and his stellar restaurant, Binkley’s, many times before on this site.

Chef Kevin Binkley


Kevin was able to do something that no one else has done, make me a kale salad lover – as long as it’s this salad! I could eat it every single day for lunch and dinner and be a happy camper.

dinosaur and curly kale

Kevin calls it a crushed kale salad. It is the same technique you’ll find all over the internet, only they are calling it massaging the kale instead of crushing it. One thing he does differently is to tear the kale into bite-sized pieces instead of cutting it into ribbons or chiffonade.

In this video, I’m holding the camera with my left hand and only using my right to massage the kale. You’ll use both hands.

So why crush or massage the kale? Because doing so helps break down the very strong cell structure of the leaves. After a couple of minutes, you’ll notice a visible difference as you massage the kale; the leaves darken, they shrink and wilt and become quite silky, and most importantly, palatable. Raw kale is bitter and tough, massaging or crushing is key to enjoying it uncooked.

roast walnuts

One big takeaway for me from the class was the way Kevin toasts nuts. Instead of spreading them on a dry baking sheet, like I usually do, he tosses the nuts in a little oil and salt. If you’ve ever toasted nuts before, you know that when they are done, they are dry. So dry that salt, sugar, or spice won’t stick to them. Tossing them in the oil and seasoning before toasting is so much better!

Two points I need to make: You’ll notice the recipe calls for raspberries, I didn’t have any, but they are a beautiful, colorful, and yummy addition to the salad. Also, be sure to buy bunches of kale, not the bagged chopped-up variety. The bagged stuff has the center ribs included, you don’t want the ribs. I used one bunch of dinosaur or black kale and one bunch of curly kale. A mix is a nice way to go.

Oh, and if you’re interested in learning more about Kevin Binkley – enjoy this great documentary.

Binkley's Crushed Kale Salad

Binkley’s Crushed Kale Salad

Toasted Walnuts

  • 1 cup raw walnut halves
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • Egg yolk from 1 small egg (or 1/2 yolk from a large egg)
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and diced shallot
  • 1/4 cup olive oil


  • 2 bunches kale (a mix of dinosaur, curly, and/or red)
  • 1 ½ cups finely shredded Parmesan, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 navel oranges
  • 1 container raspberries

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April 29, 2016   1 Comment

from the table to the pot

Thanksgiving table

It is always a good idea to use seasonal produce in a centerpiece, especially on a Thanksgiving table. After all, the holiday is all about bounty and nothing looks more bountiful than beautiful fruits and vegetables.

Of course, we don’t want to be wasteful either, so using that produce for meals in the days to follow is a must!


Our Thanksgiving centerpiece consisted of pomegranates, tangerines, persimmons (later used in a salad) baby zucchini, and pattypan squash (sautéed as a side dish that weekend) along with the winter squashes of butternut, acorn, and delicata, used for the following soup recipe.

The recipe is the same one I used for a cooking class last Wednesday at Les Gourmettes Cooking School. The only difference was that instead of seven cups of mixed squash, I used 3 cups of butternut along with red bell peppers and sweet potatoes.  The variation for that soup is included.


Here is one more photo from our holiday dinner – one of the place settings.

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December 7, 2015   1 Comment

It’s all about the packaging!

As you know, I am not a baker. I don’t enjoy it. I don’t have the patience for it. I am not good at it. Even so, there are times when I do have to bake. When teaching cooking, for example.

This last recipe from my “Gifts of Food” class at Les Gourmettes is dozy. I decided to add it to the class for one reason and one reason only – the packaging.

Big mistake for a person who doesn’t enjoy baking!


But sometimes, the packaging is everything.


But come on! How cute is this cookie, that looks like a mini double-crust lattice pie, in an adorable little scalloped window box, on top of a doily and all tied up with baker’s twine?!? To me – it’s Irresistible!

I’m sure most of us can admit that we’ve bought something only because of the packaging and not so much for what was inside. These bad decisions not only happen when purchasing something, though. Making this cookie to teach in front of a class of students is a case in point.

In my defense, I do know how to and do enjoy doing lattice work with pie dough. On pies! Turns out that making lattice work with cookie dough is not the same thing! Not by a mile! Pie dough is flexible and easy to work with. Cookie dough is delicate, it tears and falls apart, and needs to be refrigerated over and over again.

  • Time and Patience!
  • Qualities a baker has.
  • Qualities I do not!

So if you’re a baker – this recipe is for you!

If you’re not, but you have a friend who is – a very good friend who will let you call the cookies your own – have them make them for you!

Or just make the dough, roll it out and use decorative cookie cutters on it. The cookies are not only pretty – they are quite delicious too.

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December 2, 2015   No Comments

coffee cubes


It’s obvious that I’ve been away from blogging too long. I’m not quite back in the grove because I somehow missed my traditional Thanksgiving post. So here’s wishing you and yours love and a fun-filled Thanksgiving weekend.

Back to the business at hand.

I hesitate to share this next “Gifts of Food” recipe. I was thinking I should try to market it to my dear friends Steve Kraus & Tram Mai to sell in their Press Coffee Roasters stores. The packaging is so cute that even though I don’t drink coffee, I’d buy these puppies just for the sweet little sack!

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November 27, 2015   No Comments

cookie snow globe

This is the favorite of the six recipes I taught for my “Gifts of Food” class last week at Les Gourmettes.  It’s just so darn cute and has so many elements I love.

  1. Cookies
  2. Food in jars
  3. Pretend snow (isn’t cold and doesn’t melt!)
  4. Adorableness in abundance

snow globe

I mean, seriously, how happy would you be if someone gave you this?  Not only cute, but yummy too!

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November 25, 2015   1 Comment