Learn to Cook at Luci’s Healthy Marketplace

Confession time: I don’t cook. I’m sure I could cook if I wanted to, and in preparation of the day that my husband and son realize that, I recently attended one of the cooking classes in the EatTable DrinkBar Cooking Series: Tastes of Italy with James Monaci at Luci’s Healthy Marketplace. The entire experience was nothing but fun and informative—even for someone who does her best to avoid all things culinary. (Okay, more like all things cooking usually – I love eating food others prepare!)

Chef James Monaci in class

Chef James Monaci demonstrates for the class. Photo by Michelle T. Everson

The location

If you’re in the Valley and haven’t been to Luci’s Healthy Marketplace, you need to stop whatever you’re doing and head on over. It’s a fun and funky marketplace meets coffee bar meets restaurant. It has everything from delicious wines to a healthy frozen food section! My mom-in-law Liz, who attended the cooking class with me, and I plan to go there for breakfast or brunch soon. Their menu looks absolutely delish.

The cooking series

The Taste of Italy cooking series with James Monaci is a series of classes that promises to introduce you to the secrets of making fine Italian foods. From pasta to salads, soups, cheese and pizza, each Italian course will be featured during this series, which takes place on an ongoing basis throughout 2014. Each class includes wine—yum!

Liz, my partner in culinary crime, went with me to the first class in the series on Feb. 13, which was all about making pasta dishes from scratch.

The experience

To be honest, we weren’t sure what to expect. Liz was expecting something out of a home economics class—and I was personally nervous since I don’t cook. But, once we met Chef James and our classmates (which felt more like a group of old friends), we were at ease.

During the pasta class, which was about two hours from start to finish, Chef James showed us how to make spaghetti, fettuccini and pappardelle style pastas with a variety of homemade sauces. It was a more show-and-tell experience (similar to watching a cooking demonstration) but he did invite us to come into the kitchen and try our hands at the various techniques.

Chef James Monaci cooks for the class

Chef James Monaci cooks for the class. Photo by Michelle T. Everson

Chef James was very warm and welcoming—he answered questions, told jokes and interacted with his students with ease. Some of the class members were friends of his, and gave us some sidebar cooking tips. One of my favorite parts? The different types of wines we got to taste and the samples of the dishes he made. One was pasta that was made with chocolate in it! Yes – chocolate pasta! And it did taste as unique as you’re imagining.

What I learned

I’m not going to lie and tell you that I walked away able to cook pasta from scratch all on my own. But, what I did learn from both Chef James and my classmates is to start simple—for kitchen novices such as myself it’s best to start with a simple recipe and work your way up. I also learned that cooking is not an exact science—especially when you have more experience in the kitchen. (A handful of this here, a dash of that there sort of measurements seemed common!) Also, there is such a difference in taste between made from scratch pasta and the type you buy at the store. I recommend that everyone try from-scratch pasta and sauce at least once—you can definitely taste the love!

Next up

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The next cooking class in the series is on Sunday, April 6, and it’s all about salads. We’re definitely going to be attending this one as well because my mom-in-law loves the idea of new and creative ways to make salads. I’m also excited about trying new wines!

For more information

Visit www.lucishealthymarketplace.com/cooking-classes for a list of upcoming class topics and dates. Each class ranges from $39.99-$49.99 per person and includes samples of the dishes and wine. You can find Luci's Healthy Marketplace at 1590 East Bethany Home Road in Phoenix. Call 602.773.1339 for more information.

Written by Michelle Talsma Everson

Michelle Talsma Everson graduated from Northern Arizona University with degrees in both public relations and print journalism. She currently works as a freelance writer, editor and PR pro in Phoenix. An avid storyteller, Michelle has written and edited for a variety of local, regional and national publications. Practically an Arizona native, she loves to explore the Grand Canyon State with her 6-year-old “intern.” You can see more of Michelle’s work at mteverson.com.

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