For a really long time I thought I was going to quit my job in publishing and become a fancy vegan, gluten-free pastry chef and bring amazing pastries to the formerly under-served gluten-free vegans who just NEED A FREAKING CROISSANT. At some point, though, I realized I would probably have to live very un-fancily for the rest of my underpaid life while paying back yet another tuition loan, this time for culinary school. So I kind of gave up on that beautiful dream of buttery flakiness.
But for my birthday my brother bought me the most perfect present: a spot at a vegan, gluten-free baking and decorating class at the Natural Gourmet Institute (at 21st Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan). Korrie Chichester, executive pastry chef at Vegan Divas, taught a mixed class of first-time bakers, hobbyists (me!), and pastry chefs wanting to expand into the gluten-free zone how to make six different kinds of vegan cake and several varieties of frosting. She also raced through a bit of icing and decorating.
The cakes we baked were delish and varied enough that you could probably make only those six cakes for the rest of your life and continue to be impressive at every gathering you host. So five stars for the recipes. On the teaching side, though, I think I was hoping for a little more technique instruction — measuring ingredients, testing cakes for doneness, mixing, fancy icing, etc. Many of the tasks were performed by the assistants — some ingredients were pre-measured and students weren’t allowed near the ovens. But that’s what you get in three hours with no nearby burn unit, I think. I left with a stomach full of cake, an untouched hazelnut cake with cherry-vanilla icing, a bunch of solid recipes, a new friend who’d been my baking partner, and Korrie’s email address for post-class questions. Overall, I loved it and will definitely take more classes at the Natural Gourmet.
That baking class is one of dozens of vegan-appropriate classes at this culinary school; there are classes on tempeh, raw food, seitan, tofu, cooking techniques, vegan sauces, wine pairings, mushrooms, sea vegetables, and every other little I can imagine having a dedicated class on. Most of the sessions cost $100-200, a good deal considering what you get: a professional chef who demonstrates and then assists you in making something. And then you eat that thing, often with wine.