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San Clemente Journal

Local Chefs Share Their Skills

May 19, 2015 01:11PM ● By Donia Moore
by Donia Moore, photos by Jonie Millhouse

I’ll admit this right up front. I don’t cook. Well, technically that’s not true - I do push a mean button on my gas BBQ. And you should see my toast masterpieces of slightly charcoaled edges on healthy, gluten free, seven-grain bread. A little charcoal is good for the digestive system, right? I do have a timer - it’s in the ceiling and screeches at me when things get a little overdone in my oven. 

Having ‘fessed up I have to say that my life recently changed drastically. I began attending cooking classes to learn about the fabulous chefs in San Clemente, those who are teaching the rest of us how to make something besides frozen entrees … and I got hooked.

Tina and Vince’s
My first foray into cooking class was at Tina and Vince’s Italian Delicatessen on Avenida Del Mar. This deli has a secret weapon: the Chef team of Vito Raspatella and Piper Sporrer-Johnson. Vito is pure Chicago and Piper is Cordon Bleu trained. Together they are a team of funny, friendly foodies who keep the class going with their high energy and unbeatable edibles. 
Every dish of the four-course menu is demo-ed and then enjoyed by the class immediately. Vito takes the time to pass around the recipe’s ingredients in various forms so students can see the results at any stage of the process. That’s especially helpful for newbie cooks to see. 
This was Mushroom night, and when the class tasted Vito’s Wild Mushroom Lasagna made out of fresh lasagna dough, with its light Bechamel Sauce, they stood up and cheered. Then the Profito Chantilly Cream Zabaglione went around and there was dead silence, except for the little moans of delight as patrons inhaled them. 

There’s a bonus, too. Even though the sample portions are more than the size of a generous dinner portion, at the end of every class Vito brings out beautifully, glistening pizzas … in case someone still might be hungry. Although the demo dinner was filling and delicious, it seems there is always room for pizza! 

The class was fun, casual, relaxed and engaging at every step. Bring your own bottle of wine! 
To make a reservation call (949)498-5156.

Antoine’s is a charming, cozy little café on South El Camino Real with a fresh French emphasis on its amazing food - not surprising since friendly owner Veronique Price was raised in Vichy, France. The family also owns Café Mimosa on nearby Avenida Del Mar. 
Chef Carolyn Cazaumayou - originally a restaurateur from Antibes on the south coast of France - put on a master demonstration of Califrench technique and treatment of  a five-course gourmet Spring Menu dinner.

Beginning with tender eggplant married to Kalamata olives on a toasted bruschetta, her meal quickly progressed to a rosemary-stuffed beef tenderloin with a spinach-caper sauce, finishing up with a mouth-watering raspberry and white chocolate Ganache tart. 

The class fully enjoyed Carolyn’s light, easy-to-follow directions and demonstration, and the dinner-sized portions and complimentary wine served following the display. 
Carolyn’s casual but professional presentation was easy to follow, and the air of “je’ne sais quoi” surrounding her was delightful. I felt like a member of a comfortable, happy family by the time the evening was finished - very reassuring to someone who doesn’t know a whisk from a whacker.
To join a class or for more information call (949)492-1763

Agostino’s By the Sea
If you’ve never been to Agostino’s by the Sea in Capistrano Beach, you can’t possibly imagine the combination of sunset, wine and freshly prepared dishes available in this Neapolitan-influenced restaurant at the beach … especially when you realize you can cook a three-course menu yourself.

This evening started with wine and cheese before moving into the culinary zone to begin the class. Restaurateur and chef, Augie, mastered his presentation and every brave soul attending had their own burner on which to cook. Ingredients were pre-measured for each recipe, and delivered to each station. Augie demo-ed with style and flourish, and then made the rounds to check and direct each participant’s progress. A word of encouragement was offered here, a joke there, and best of all, a break to eat the dish you just finished preparing. 

From the warm artichoke spinach salad, to the fork tender steak, to the small army of friendly servers rushing in to clean the cooking stations, our perfect evening ended enjoying the fruits (and veggies) of our labors as well as a beautiful sunset.
Join the fun by calling (949)661-8266 to make a reservation.

It’s all about the olives at Oliver’s. Who knew there were so many different kinds? Butter, Meyer Lemon, even chocolate infused olive oils join shelves of flavor- aged balsamic and organic vinegars. Some you cook with, some you dip, some you want to drink (they’re that good!). 
But the special ingredient that owners Julie and Bob Brawner savor here is their friend and colleague Chef Joe Marsico. He cooks with a casual flair that makes watching him a little like watching a magician do chemistry - pouring a little out of this bottle, a little out of that one… and the delicious results of his magic melted on our tongues as we sampled sheer heaven on a fork after each dish was demonstrated. 

Starting with Cauliflower Couscous with green olives, and ending with a Crespelle (crepe) filled with Nutella, bananas and walnuts, the four-course menu was demonstrated with panache and style, and the dinner-sized portions were completely satisfying. We loved looking into each pan as he invited us up to the cooking counter while he was cooking. 
To enjoy these demonstrations call (949)497-6917

All four of these establishments offer classes of about two and a half hours with different menus every month. Whether you want a private demo for a few friends or a catered affair in your home, each of these chefs is delighted to discuss your needs. They all offer gift certificates for their cooking classes and restaurants. What a priceless present for a birthday, Fathers’ Day, or any gift day!

In closing all of these chefs offered the same advice abut cooking. “Don’t limit yourself to the recipe. Try what you like. Experiment!”