Tasty Bernal Cooking Class Could Make You a Master Chef

Neighbor Jillian wrote in to Bernalwood to talk about a tasty new cooking class available here in our tasty little neighborhood:

We are lucky to have a culinary talent living next to us who just started offering cooking classes on Elsie Street in Bernal Heights.

Our neighbor and Bernal resident of 24 years, Douglas Leach (the guy in the grey coat), has opened his own cooking school, called Home Cooking San Francisco. Douglas wants to teach folks who don’t cook often or at all how to make delicious meals at home. He thinks that cooking should be fun and getting dinner on table should be within reach for the average non-cook.

Douglas trained with the founders of the French Laundry restaurant, Sally and Don Schmidt, at their Apple Farm Cooking School in Philo, CA. For ten years he made annual pilgrimages there to learn the art of getting dinner on the table. There is nothing that Douglas loves more than the conviviality of cooking, learning, and eating together.

I took his October 13th class, a Fall menu, on a warm early evening: Chicken braised with Olives, Oranges, Onions and Rosemary, Creamy Polenta with Fontina, Zucchini Noodles, Green Salad with Crostini & Cheese, Fall Fruit Clafouti

Personally, I find cooking intimidating — especially with meat. I can handle a salad, but a whole chicken? Ugh. Doug reviewed the menu with us, and guided us through the process of preparing the meal, talking us through all the details. We started the chicken first since that had to braise in the oven while we prepared the side dishes. I thought “to braise” meant pan frying — nope! It is actually a simple technique: first sear the meat, then bake it in covered pot with liquid. In this case, chicken with chicken broth, olives, onions, oranges and rosemary. Much easier that I’d imagined.

And the results? Normally I never, ever eat legs or thighs (dark meat and tendons, ew!). But after braising in those flavors for 1.5 hours, it was divine. The meat fell off the bone, and the infusion of olives/oranges/onions/rosemary was absolutely delicious. We served the chicken over polenta, with creamy fontina cheese.

Before this class, I would have never attempted this at home, but I now consider this a must repeat recipe.

Douglas loves flavorful hearty, home style cooking, but knows how to do it in healthful way. Like the zucchini noodles, they are literally zucchini cut into thin strips with a mandoline and sauteed with olive oil and salt. Super simple, unexpected and delicious. Fruit Clafouti was also easy, low fat and delicious.

He also covered simple techniques: knife safety & cutting techniques, meal planning, when to substitute ingredients, or how to flip roasting pumpkin seeds for the salad. Check out a video I took for a quick tip.

Douglas’s classes have only 8 students per class. It is very hands-on, so you pick up a lot of learning. It’s suitable for a posse of friends to reserve one night of cooking class together, or ideal for worker bees who live in Bernal and are too knackered to attend a typical weeknight class, because they can just walk on over! No need to drive to the Ferry Building or elsewhere. I had a fun time, and Douglas has great personality. I think his Home Cooking SF is a real Bernal gem.

PHOTOS: Collage, Jillian Moffett. All others, Joha Evans

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