My family loves to cook and since I have started exploring my families’ recipes, I thought it would be fun to take a cooking class together at Marcel’s Culinary Experience in Glen Ellyn, IL. We needed a minimum of 10 people in order to have a private event, but since I have a large family that all live in the Chicagoland area, it was easy to get a group of us together. We had 12 people commit to do the class, my aunt and her family joined my family and we had a great time with some great people; plus it helped that they served wine and beer along with the meal so we became more animated and boisterous as the class progressed. As everyone arrived we moseyed through the store front in downtown Glen Ellyn which is full of gadgets for the kitchen and eventually we made it to the back of the store where the classes are held. After talking with our hosts, we all washed our hands, put on our aprons, and grabbed a place around a huge table; each setting had a cutting board, knife, pen and our menu along with instructions on how to prepare all of the courses. Our chef, Paul, had two pleasant and patient assistants helping him; they got all of us settled in and acquainted with the kitchen and served us all a drink of our choice (there were both alcoholic and non-alcoholic choices). We started getting excited as our chef began with a little history of Marcel’s and his experience as a cooking instructor. As Paul started the class, the first topic covered was how to properly use a knife. Paul mentioned that this was the most important lesson of the day and is what would make everyone more efficient in the kitchen. The new technique is very helpful, but it is a little awkward at first to hold in one’s hand. There were also a few chopping techniques he taught us with an onion and avocado that I will now use in the kitchen. All of the neat hacks that Paul taught were very helpful and I wish I could explain better through my blog, but the easiest way to learn these would be to actually take the class!
The first dish on the menu was a salad. We made a baby greens, avocado, pomegranate, and almond salad with a delicious champagne vinaigrette dressing. We used our new cutting technique to cut shallots and avocados which was all tossed in with the pomegranate and almonds. As soon as the salad was finished we were able to start with the first course and it was fantastic! It was both sweet and salty – the dressing and the pomegranate seeds were nice and sweet and the crunchy almonds were essential to round out the salad and give it the perfect balance of saltiness. After the salad was finished, my uncle was given the task of starting on the roasted eggplant soup with a roasted red pepper cream that was dolloped on the top of each serving. As Chef Paul instructed my uncle on the points for making both the soup and the cream, we crowded around the stove to see what was needed; then more of us were put to work in the kitchen. While my uncle worked on the soup, my husband and brother-in-law made celery root potatoes (the potatoes were already boiled so they just needed to mash them up in the pot and add the different spices and ingredients. Meanwhile I made salted caramel, while every one else was either working on creating apple tarts for dessert or were distracted by the store front adding to their ever increasing shopping list. I never knew making caramel was so tricky. Chef Paul told me that you want the caramel to be a dark brown, but you need to watch it closely because the color changes so quickly that the caramel can go from light brown to black within a minute. Once the soup, potatoes, and caramel were finished and the apple tarts in the oven, we put everything aside to make the beef tenderloin medallions with a truffle butter sauce. My dad and brother-in-law cooked the meat while my husband kept the time; Chef Paul instructed them to only cook the medallions for two minutes on each side in order to produce a great medium rare steak. Everyone else was busy finishing up the final touches on their menu items or still looking to add to their kitchen in the shop up front.
Once the meat was done one medallion was placed beautifully on a plate next to the potatoes and drizzled with the truffle butter sauce. Then for the first time all day, there was silence in the kitchen while we all enjoyed the fruits of our labor. Then we moved on to dessert, which was so simple and easy to make; it was incredible, especially with the caramel when covered with the sweet caramel I made. The entire meal, from start to finish, was absolutely delicious! I would highly recommend Marcel’s Cooking Experience to anyone, whether you are a beginner or an intermediate chef, we learned so much and had a great time cooking a wonderful four course meal!
One noteworthy ingredient for the positive experience was the staff. The chef and the two assistants were so friendly and patient and helped us along the whole way. They definitely went above and beyond what was needed that when the class was beginning, one of the assistants took over for my husband who was rocking Grace in the stroller. Grace quickly fell asleep and we were able to just leave her quietly aside in her stroller. The team at Marcel’s was very calm and didn’t pressure us to get things done quickly. We had plenty of room to cook in the back of the store and the cleanliness was on point.
I am already planning another trip to Marcel’s, I think it would so fun to take the Indian or Mexican cooking class and I can’t wait to go back!