Guess what mom: I’m going to cooking school

Yep, it’s true.

After more than a year of writing about Mexican food on this blog, I finally took the plunge and signed up for a diploma program at the Escuela de Gastronomía Mexicana.

It’s a cooking school that specializes in Mexican gastronomy, and it’s conveniently located near my house — just a short bike ride or 20-minute walk away.

The program is 13 months long, and classes are held one night a week for three to four hours. During half the class period, we’ll cook authentic Mexican dishes; the rest of the time, we’ll learn about Mexico’s culinary history and culture. (Seriously. Does this not have my name written all over it?) At the end of the program, graduates receive a diploma in Especialización de Gastronomía Mexicana.

I took a Mexican salsas class at this school a few weeks ago, so I already knew that I liked the instructors. They’re very nice, knowledgeable about Mexican cooking and open to answering any questions.

Our first class was yesterday, so I got to meet all of my fellow students for the first time. There were about a dozen of us, an equal mix of men and women. We each received a welcome packet and a little notebook. Then instructor Yuri de Gortari spent a good 90 minutes lecturing about corn and its influence in Mexico, and another three hours or so talking about prehispanic ingredients.

It was fascinating. I scribbled furiously in my notebook, while many of other students just sat and listened. No doubt they knew a lot of the material already.

I, for one, had no idea that a corn cob is called an “olote” or that the real name for the dried corn husk — that is, the real Nahuatl name — is “totomoxtle.” I didn’t know that piloncillo cones used to be available in smaller sizes, and that you’d nibble on them as you sipped atole. Or that chicatana ants are abundant and eaten regularly in Chiapas, and spirulina algae was a prehispanic food.

Think I’m gonna need to buy a few more notebooks.

At the end of class, Yuri announced that we all needed to buy our own molcajetes and metates. The former is a lava rock mortar-and-pestle; the latter is a lava rock tablet and grinding stone. We’re going to learn how to grind corn, chocolate and salsas by hand.

This is how they used to do it, back in the olden days:

On the off chance that I don’t like the program after all, I can leave whenever I want. It’s pay-as-you-go.

But I’m really excited about everything I’m going to learn. Off to Mercado Merced next week to get grinding stones. Woo-hoo!

19 Responses to “Guess what mom: I’m going to cooking school”
  1. Joy Victory

    So amazing, Lesley! That’s really cool they’re starting with the historical stuff first.

    For some reason this made me miss La Embajada Jarocha — I hope they cover Veracruz cuisine in your class!

  2. Maura

    Wow, Lesley this is awesome news! I am so jealous and excited for you! Can’t wait to hear all about what you’re learning. Hope you’ll share some notes from class and recipes, too!

  3. Lesley

    Thanks you guys. Actually, Joy, the instructor talked about Veracruz a lot yesterday — it is apparently a hub for prehispanic ingredients. I’m sure we’ll do some Veracruzan dishes in class… can’t wait to find out what they are.

    Maura: I’ll definitely share recipes! I have an ancho chile-peanut salsa recipe that I’ve been wanting to post, from the salsa class I took there. I got to grind the chile on the metate. It was awesome.

  4. Leslie Limon

    Congrats, tocaya! :) I can’t wait to hear all about your classes and the wonderful food you’ll be making. And I must say that I am a wee bit jealous. But so happy for you! Felicidades!

    Don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I love the new look! And that header is making me hungry! :)

  5. Nancy

    Congratulations, I know you will slurp up all the information (like the food analogy?)

    I have enjoyed hearing about all your food oriented learning, the photography, etc, and now this, so maybe a blog post about where you want to end up would be fun…

    I have wondered – restaurant critic? food consultant? restaurateur? cookbook author? movie star? You seem to be working to become very well rounded so perhaps you could do any or all of it…

    Take care and I look forward to hearing about your classes.

  6. alice

    felicidades — all your dreams coming true!

    i love the linoleum print. is dempster based in mexico? and does he have a studio here?

  7. Oh, I am so envious! I can’t wait to hear all about your classes.

  8. alice

    Wow, this is wonderful. It made me nostalgic from when I used to like to cook, now trumped by work and a hate of washing dishes :S

  9. Don Cuevas

    Very cool, Lesley.
    We walked by the school last week while roaming about in Roma.

    Incidentally, the URL to the school’s website doesn’t work. no sirve.

    Don Cuevas

    • Lesley

      Thanks Don Cuevas. I fixed the link — it should work now.

  10. Joan

    The jacket is worth the price of the course. I want one of those!

    The course is stretched over 13 months, once a week. I am surprised that people would commit for this length of time–although the course is certainly worth it. Is it designed for people otherwise employed who can only attend evenings?

    I look forward to taking the classes vicariously through your writings!

  11. Refried Dreamer

    Congrats on your cooking class! How exciting!

  12. sweetlife

    congrats more great news, how fun 13 weeks immersed in mexican cuisine and exciitng I have a metate and wow you are gonna love using it, have fun and keep us posted..


  13. Jessica

    Lesley – what an exciting next phase of your adventures there…I love the picture of your chef gear with your name on it. It’s a pleasure to follow your blog!

  14. Daniel H.

    Terrific! Congrats! Love the new look here as well. Cheers, D.

  15. myparentskeeper

    This sounds like so much fun! Let me know if you ever get around to making tamales de chipilín. I think that’s what they’re called. I had them when I was in the state of Oaxaca in one of the villages. I swear they were the best tamales I’ve ever tried. Unfortunately, I haven’t found them anywhere else since then.

  16. Wendy

    Hi Lesley, I was just wondering the name of the diplomado youre taking. I’ve been trying get a hold of them to learn more about the school and y las fechas.. I just haven’t been able to talk to anyone. I would appreciate your help :) I love out the July 7th, thank you in advanced.

    • Lesley

      Hi Wendy: The diplomado is Especialización en Gastronomía Mexicana. I don’t think they’re offering the exact same program anymore — there’s a new Especialización program they introduced, but it costs double what I paid, and the classes are twice a week instead of once. If you call during normal business hours, you should be able to get someone — not this week since it’s Semana Santa, but next week. Let me know if you continue to have trouble and I’ll try to get you a brochure. Good luck!

  17. Wendy

    Thank you for the information. I tried calling on Wednesday and Thursday and once again couldn’t get anyone. I might be dialing the wrong number or something. And if its not too much of me to ask for, I would appreciate you getting me that brochure! If anything I’m moving out to Mexico City in July. I can always check with them then. Thank you once again.

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