With 11 Viking Cooking Schools scattered across the country, you’d think signing up for a class would be easy. Turns out, some 77,000 other people have the same idea every year. If you book in plenty of time, though, you’ll be treated to an embarrassment of riches covering everything from Parisian patisserie and sustainable seafood to Vietnamese classics. Like many fairly messy cooks, I’ve always shunned making appetizers—there’s something about the inherent fussiness that evokes memories of mangled science projects. But eating them is a different story, so I chose the Champagne Cocktail Party class in a last-ditch effort to overcome my fears. And what do you know? Stamping out biscuit dough, prepping a pomegranate glaze, and grilling chicken skewers wasn’t hard at all. The same goes for blue-cheese biscuits with seared beef tenderloin—a delicious revelation. Even vegetable-and-Boursin canapés—the most fragile hors d’oeuvre on the menu—were remarkably unfussy to prepare. I wouldn’t say I’m an appetizer convert, but the thought of impressing friends with a cocktail party full of nibbles no longer fills me with dread and despair. (vikingcookingschool.com; from $59 for a two-hour class)
What I Learned
How to make Boursin-style cheese (one part goat cheese to one part cream cheese to 1/2 part butter, plus seasonings). And an excellent tip for barbecuing: Skewers can be prepped ahead of time and go straight from freezer to grill.
Viking premeasures all ingredients, cutting out kitchen grunt work almost completely. That, combined with the jaw-droppingly splendid workspace, makes it impossible not to strut about like a Food Network star. It’s a wonderful fantasy, but not particularly helpful for beginners.
Before You Go
At the end of the class, you’ll be offered the chance to purchase an array of Viking products, from a knife set to a fully equipped kitchen. There’s no hard sell, but expect to be seduced.
Where to Stay
Viking schools tend to be in metropolitan areas across the country, but few are in prime tourist destinations. (My class was a 45-minute train ride from my office in Manhattan.) If you’re taking a class, chances are you’re already local.