The League Of Kitchens: Full-Tilt Culinary Immersion

The League Of Kitchens: Full-Tilt Culinary Immersion

I am such a huge fan of Stephen Colbert. From the Colbert report to his now “Late Night” takeover, I find his humor charming, clever and at times educational and insightful. In a fairly recent taping, Lisa Gross, Founder and CEO of The League of Kitchens (NYC) was a special guest. I sat enraptured. The premise behind this concept is explained more thoroughly in a bit- yet what really caught my attention was the bridging of cultures and how this premise could expand with a mulitude of possibilities. Imagine having the chance to learn a specific cuisine and cooking style from an experienced home chef, of a different nationality, in their very own home. It’s about as immersive as you can get without hopping on a plane. I am part Lebanese, and Italian among a few other things (a mixed bag to say the least!) so the idea was fascinating to me. Learn about your heritage while picking up skills and nuances only a seasoned veteran could pass along. Imagine taking that idea and expanding it to the South with regional heritage such as Creole, Cajun, Appalachian, Low-Country and Gullah. Or how about simple, divine Soul Food at its finest? Oh, yes, please.

CSL: I have to start first by saying I saw you on Stephen Colbert, with what was of course (in Colbert fashion) an information yet comedic overview of what your organization does. Very entertaining. What was that experience like for you?

LG: It was an amazing experience. I’m such a huge fan of Stephen Colbert’s–it was pretty surreal to be on his show. It was also really exciting to get to share what we do with such a large audience.

CSL: For those who may not have caught the segment, can you give me a brief “elevator overview” of the concept behind League of Kitchens?

LG: The League of Kitchens is a unique cooking school in NYC where all of our teachers are immigrants who are exceptional home cooks, and all the workshops take place in the instructors’ home kitchens.

We have two main offerings–a 5.5 hour all day immersion workshop that begins with a light lunch, covers 5-6 dishes, and ends with a full dinner, and a 2.5 hour taste of workshop that starts with a snack, covers 2-3 dishes, and ends with a light meal. We have both vegetarian and non-vegetarian menus. All our workshops have only 6 students, and everyone goes home with professionally written recipes and a detailed shopping guide to the instructor’s favorite shops.

CSL: How do you choose your teachers/chefs for the program? Do you focus on specific countries or do you poll participants on what they would like to see/experience?

LG: We choose people who are exceptional home cooks, who really make everything from scratch using traditional methods and ingredients. We’re also looking for people who are great hosts with strong teaching potential. The cuisines we offer are based on the people we find–when we find someone amazing, we hire them. Though there are certain cuisines we’re hoping to add. I’d really like to find a Mexican instructor and a Southeast Asian instructor.
CSL:Growth potential, do you have plans or thoughts you can share?

LG: I hope we continue to grow in NYC by finding and hiring lots of amazing new instructors from all over the world. I also hope to do a cookbook, and I would love to do a TV show so that people everywhere can learn to cook from our incredible instructors.

CSL:If there is one thing that is a consistent take-away from participants, what would that be?

LG: Every workshop begins a little bit awkwardly and most students feel a little bit nervous and apprehensive about going into a stranger’s home. But by the end, a real connection has been formed and our students always say that it feels like they’ve gained a new favorite aunt or sister and that another part of the world and another culture suddenly feels personal. And it’s cooking, sharing, and eating that’s the catalyst for this shift.

For information on workshops and classes visit:

To view the Colbert interview click here.

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