For eight years, Andrea Blanco has been the creative force behind the exceptional cuisine at Cuernavaca-based La Gaia, a charming establishment in a house formerly owned by famed Mexican entertainer Cantiflas. She also developed the menu at its sister restaurant Villa de la Selva, in the Pacific coast resort town Ixtapa.
When Blanco first proposed the idea of offering cooking classes on Mondays at the restaurant—the kitchen’s slowest day—she wasn’t sure what to expect, but they were an immediate hit. The evening classes, from 6 pm to 8 pm, tend to attract professionals, whereas the morning classes, between 10:30 am and 12:30 pm, are attended by well-to-do housewives, a group she calls “The Ladies”. The class was so popular among the ladies, that Blanco soon opened a separate class—at their request—for their housekeepers.
“Many of The Ladies hate cooking,” says Blanco, “but the maids like to cook. Sometimes I have to explain more things [to the maids], but they absorb the knowledge much faster.”
A member of the young generation of Mexican chefs storming the national and international gastronomic scene, Blanco combines classical training (she studied at the Culinary Institute of America, in New York) with a flair for innovation and a roll-up-your-sleeves practicality. In 2001, she won the Concurso Nacional de Joven Chef Méxicano (an Iron Chef-like competition where entrants create entrees on the fly based on ingredients given to them).
When she decided that she wanted to learn traditional Italian cooking, she showed up at one of Rome’s most well-known restaurants in her whites and convinced the owner to let her work elbow-to-elbow with the staff. This year she’ll be the guest chef at the Camelback, Arizona restaurant Elements.
The curriculum for Blanco’s class reflects her practical sensibility. The six-week course teaches cooking basics and gives an overview of different dishes and cuisines, from mole to risotto to stir fry. Each class covers three recipes, which students should then be able to recreate in their own kitchens. “I like simple things,” she says. “I don’t like recipes that take two days.”
She also offers courses to corporate executives and has developed a line of spices, called Spezia. The spices make it simple to add flavor to a variety of meals and are given as a gift in the corporate courses and sold in the Mexico City restaurant, Café Ó. It’s clear that for the multitalented Blanco, the classes have become another way to indulge her fervor for the kitchen.
“I really love teaching,” she says. “I love seeing students pick up ideas. And I learn so much from them as well.”
Cooking class information
Class meets once a week for six weeks.
Cuernavaca: Mondays, 10:30 am -12:30 pm and 6-8 pm
Mexico City: Wed & Thurs, 10:30 am – 12: 30 pm
Cost: $2550 pesos, includes all ingredients.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org about enrollment.