Cooking at the Cottage

Wooden kitchen utensilsI love to cook. I’ve avoided doing it professionally for most of my life, because I don’t like to associate it with stress. When at home, I find it to be a relaxing process, relieving my mind from any anxieties. Like so many hobbies, there’s gratification to be felt in a controlled and creative process contrary to so many unpredictable factors in everyday life. I wish more people could get the same satisfaction I do from making food, but so many people grew up without the guidance necessary to feel confident in approaching the skill.

“We’ve found that there’s probably two generations who were never taught to cook by their family,” says Linda Kunz Bayens, who co-owns Cooking at the Cottage with her husband Mark. Since 2010, they’ve run this establishment in St. Matthews’ Vogue Center on Lexington Road. It is a retailer cookware store and a learning center for anyone curious about cooking or baking. They offer classes and demonstrations led by guest chefs from Sullivan University and some of the area’s most prestigious restaurants.

Kunz Bayens is a full-time realtor for RE/MAX who makes time for this business. She came from a restaurant-owning family but wasn’t interested in allowing that taxing business into her life. She took cooking classes for over 30 years, until places that offered them became hard to find in Louisville. That was when she and her husband decided to open this place, welcoming people to learn about food without having to enroll in culinary school.

“We have people of all levels,” says Kunz Bayens. “We have the person who has never cooked in their life to people who are just fantastic cooks who just want to learn more and delve in a new area or subject.”

The place is know for its “Date Night” courses, where couples are provided gas burners and portioned ingredients while a chef guides them through the cooking process. “There are people who come rather than going out to dinner because they’re learning something,” says Kunz Bayens. “They’re having a wonderful restaurant-style meal and getting their cooking questions answered.”

I chose to attend Brad Dillon’s “No-Knead Artisan Bread” demonstration, since baking is a relatively new thing for me. The room was filled with a wide age-range of men and women, watching a bread-making process, which requires more patience than work, to produce its beautiful results.

In the two-and-a-half hour class, we got to see how the dough is prepared before its 12 hour rise and then we got to see the benefits of using a Dutch oven for the baking process, along with tasty rolls on a sheet pan. A large tilted mirror and HD monitor are suspended from above to make the chef’s undertaking more clear to those in attendance.

Dillon is a lawyer specializing in environmental cases, who came upon bread-making only eight years ago and has stuck with it, lending his familiarity with live public speaking to tell others how he makes his brand of exquisite breads. “…I knew nothing,” he says in reference to when he started, empathizing with others who are curious about his trade. “I always presume that everybody else knows nothing and if they know more, good for them, but they’re going to come along, and they might pick up something along the way.”

During the demonstration, we were provided complimentary coffee, wine, and fair portions of Brad’s breads with cheese and dates. I was glad I’d had a light breakfast. The unquestionable benefit to a hands-on interactive demonstration is the added value that online research – and even visually mouthwatering cooking shows – cannot provide. Seeing is one thing, but smelling and tasting is another. Being in the actual presence of food being cooked gives you a real sense of when something is being done right. It makes it more inspiring to try it yourself later. And yes, I took home Brad’s recipes and picked up some whole-wheat flour with a plan to have some outrageously tasty sandwiches this week.

Considering how often I like to keep my cooking hobby a private learning experience, venturing out to learn something new with a group of enthusiastic people was a rewarding experience, and one I recommend, especially to those who want to start learning what’s possible in their own kitchen. VT

To check on upcoming classes, go to cookingatthecottage.com for schedule info. Gift cards are for sale as well.