This cooking school doesn’t go by the book.
Cook Space, a new culinary school and venue in Prospect Heights launching to the public next month, wants to help people become better home cooks through classes and workshops that don’t follow any recipes.
“Our main focus is on building culinary confidence,” said Cook Space founder and CEO Michelle Mannix. “We believe you do that by dismantling the cooking process and taking the fear out of it … [and] by not using recipes and just making the dish.”
The culinary industry was a career change for Mannix, who previously ran the Brooklyn cafe Ted & Honey and catering arm Parker Red. A layoff from a marketing job at the age of 35 led her to taking a 12-week master chef program at the New School.
“What I was really looking for was a deeper understanding,” said Mannix, now 47. “I wanted to develop my skills and comfort level in the kitchen.”
Mannix loved her experience so much, it inspired her to want to open a culinary school of her own one day.
“I do like the cooking school environment, especially because you learn by doing,” she said. “What we’re trying to do at Cook Space is develop a culinary school for the home cook, at a much easier price tag.”
To develop the programming, Mannix brought on board chef Nini Nguyen, whose resume includes Eleven Madison Park and Dinner Lab, as culinary director.
The principle offering at Cook Space is its five-week culinary confidence series — a “cooking school for the home cook,” Mannix said — which covers basic techniques such as knife skills, searing, sautéing, roasting and blanching, culminating in creating a dish made from scratch. Two levels are currently offered, with a third to be added next year.
“It’s getting people comfortable with learning how to balance flavor and how to balance texture — how to add components to dishes to get the desired effect,” Mannix said. “We believe that when you can have the most fun in the kitchen is when you can get creative and develop your own expressions of food.”
One-off classes will also be offered in topics such as brunch, New Orleans cuisine, Vietnamese street food, stews and dim sum, with guest chefs brought in on occasion. Classes typically have 12 students, with participants paired off to make a dish, and end in a communal dinner.
Eventually Cook Space looks to offer kids classes, too.
Through the space itself, Mannix hopes to further put cooks at ease. The former woodworking studio has been designed to feel more like an apartment than a commercial kitchen. Custom pantries were built with open shelving, and a nearly floor-to-ceiling peg board is filled with spoons, pots and pans.
“I wanted people to feel comfortable seeing the tools, and being able to grab them themselves without feeling self-conscious about asking for anything,” Mannix said. “I wanted there to be an open pantry with ingredients sparking inspiration.”
The appliances themselves are also a mix of home and commercial brands, from a home oven and hand mixers to a convection oven and Vitamix blender.
“It’s not stocked with anything you wouldn’t see a quote-unquote regular person having,” Mannix said. “We’re really trying to take a lot of the fear and intimidation factor and pretension and accessibility factor out. It’s very back to basics. You can accomplish a lot more than you think with a cutting board, a good knife and a decent pan.”
IF YOU GO
Cook Space is located at 603 Bergen St., Suite 202, Prospect Heights, 718-230-8400 | classes range from $80-$155, culinary confidence series costs $595 | for the full schedule, visit cookspacebrooklyn.com