Feeding the inner chef
Jennifer Bushman’s Nothing To It! Culinary Center is a unique cultural resource for Northern Nevada—if you are any kind of a foodie at all, or would like to become one, this is the place to be. The center offers a variety of informative, inexpensive and enjoyable classes for the home chef. Many classes are hands-on, and titles range from “Taste of Thailand” to “Grilling 1” to “Kids’ Table Manners.” Though NTI may teach you a thing or two (about table manners, perhaps), it is unpretentious and comfortable, fitting for a place working to debunk the myths of gourmet cooking and bring it home to the casual chef.
In addition to the large kitchen classroom, the center houses a kitchen store, with ingredients, tools, accessories and books, a small reference library and a gourmet lunch deli. The deli is only open for weekday lunch, and I would advise you to get there early because, since everything is made fresh, things tend to run out. This is especially true of dessert. Early birds will have their pick of innumerable delicious worms, from key lime tart to crème br&251;lée; the late-comer’s only choice may be Jennifer’s chocolate chip cookies (95 cents); not that that’s really a problem because these cookies, also available in the kitchen store, are dynamite.
As the name of the center and the cookies would lead you to believe, Bushman is indeed the dominant NTI personality and resident celebrity. She films her “Kitchen Coach” television segments in the same grandiose kitchen where the classes are taught. She has a cookbook, Kitchen Coach: Weeknight Cooking, coming out in July and was recently named the National Culinary Spokesperson for the American Heart Association. But she and the rest of the staff are all friendly, accommodating and willing to answer questions.
I had been excited to bring my mother to NTI since I first heard about it—there are a number of classes I know she and her friends would have the best time with, “Taste of Tuscany,” for example. Before enrolling in any classes, she decided to accompany me to the deli for lunch. We started with the soup of the day, a tasty sweet pea and coriander deal. I had the Kenwood sandwich: roast beef with roasted red peppers, caramelized onions and white cheddar on freshly baked focaccia (all sandwiches are $9.50 with a choice of salad or soup). It was as good as a roast beef sandwich can be (pretty damned good). My mom had the NTI House Salad ($6.95)—seasonal greens with mozzarella, tomatoes, roasted red peppers and a creamy parmesan peppercorn dressing—which she loved. Everything tasted supremely fresh, and the dressing was dreamily creamy.
My suggestion for the culinary-inclined is this: Go to lunch at NTI (remember to get there early), take a quick look at the honors wall, which includes nominations for a number of International Association of Culinary Professionals awards, browse the reference library and the kitchen shop, and pick up one of the class schedules and see which classes call out to you. Will it be "Sushi 101?" Or "Taste of Morocco?" One of the wine classes, perhaps? Or "Taste of New Orleans?" "Lowfat Desserts?" "Parent/Child Ice Cream Party?"