It’s more than just a collection of casinos, celebrity chefs, and cloned restaurants. It’s also a community of nearly 750,000 people, many of whom like to do their own cooking. That fact wasn’t lost on Catherine Margles, a Chicagoan of Polish descent who started Creative Cooking five years ago, teaching evening classes—sushi, Tuscan, Mexican—with Christopher Lindsay, a former MGM Grand sous-chef, an ardent ice carver, and a shellfish cook extraordinaire. Classes are small and hands-on and last about three hours. I found myself cooking Provençal dishes with nine other locals (including a transplant from Quebec who’d never tasted any of them before). We learned how to compose a proper salade niçoise and prepare moules marinière. (“You can’t be too careful with shellfish in the desert,” said Lindsay.) We whipped up herb-grilled chicken and ratatouille, followed by a caramelized-fennel and Granny Smith tart. And then we sat down to a great feast. What I remember most about my class is the way everyone connected. Vegas is not an easy city in which to meet people. And a common love for the kitchen, it turns out, is a powerful force for making friends. (702-562-3900; creativecookingschool.com; $99, including dinner)
What I Learned
To throw away a mussel even if it’s only slightly closed after the steaming process.
That thinly sliced fennel caramelizes perfectly in unsalted butter.
Before You Go
Rent a car if you’re staying on the Strip (about seven miles away). A couple of taxi rides to this part of town will end up costing you more than a one-day rental.
Where to Stay
Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa (866-767-7773; redrocklasvegas.com; from $150). Just a few miles from the school, the hotel is the swankiest resort in these parts, with sumptuous rooms, a chic round pool, and a branch of Austin’s famous Salt Lick Bar-B-Que.