Essen Cooking School, Lancaster
Lancaster’s Essen cooking school offers classes to chefs of all skill levels that embody instructor and founder Betsey Gerstein Sterenfeld’s philosophy of Breathe.Live.Grow. In each of her classes, Sterenfeld teaches students how to bring delicious, seasonal, and homemade food to the dinner table in a way that even the most inexperienced person can understand and execute. “Essen is a recreational cooking school, and what that means is it’s a no degree program, just a degree in fun,” said Sterenfeld.
Through her lifelong passion and commitment to food planning, preparation and wellness, Sterenfeld not only teaches students how to cook, she brings them together. Students interact with Betsey as well as one another while learning solid cooking techniques, and take away more than just new recipes from each class. “We want to give people not only the skills, but the confidence and the inspiration to put freshly prepared food on the table as often as they want to,” stated Sterenfeld. “And I do believe that the magic is in those user friendly tips.” During each lesson, Betsey and her students openly discuss any questions about the recipes and share personal tips with one another.
Sterenfeld is a completely self-trained cook who brings more to the table than just her culinary skills. She has an MBA and years of business experience working in the healthcare industry. Sterenfeld takes care of everything on the operational side of the business such as her own marketing, and tries her best to make everything as client-oriented as possible. “We really try to stay in touch and do things that are normally not found in the customer service industry,” said Betsey. “We’re trying to create a whole new level of what it means to be customer oriented.” Those interested in signing up for an Essen class can register through the website, by calling, or through email. A confirmation email is sent after the registration is completed, and students will even receive a reminder email before the class. “We really love to make it as easy as possible for people to come and cook,” said Sterenfeld.
Essen’s classes are usually seasonal, using local ingredients that have been freshly picked, however Sterenfeld also includes more general classes so students can still learn new techniques. “As a working mom, I really understand what it means and how hard it can be to put freshly prepared food on the table,” said Sterenfeld. By using local ingredients for most of her classes, Betsey teaches students how important local produce really is. “It just makes really good sense.” And cents, Sterenfeld explained. “Without having to do much to the food, it’s usually the most economical path to take.” Locally sourced food will contain more of its nutrients than if the food doesn’t have to travel far to get to the dinner table. “Usually that means it’s what’s in season, which tastes the best.”
Essen also offers a quarterly cookbook club, where a group of home cooks each prepare a recipe from one cookbook. The club then gathers on a chosen Friday night, and each person brings the homemade dish they picked out of the cookbook. “It’s a great way for people who love cookbooks to try new things,” said Betsey, “and for some people it’s totally just social, so everyone gets something out of it.” Attendance is free and recently some of the cookbook authors themselves have appeared as guest teachers.
The classes at Essen are aimed towards all skill levels and age groups. Once the cooking is complete, every generation involved in the class sits down at the table together to enjoy the meal they just prepared. Essen’s Breathe.Live.Grow philosophy makes the classes more than just the teaching of cooking techniques; they create a love for the art form. “It’s a way to remind people before they even walk through the door to enjoy life, to really enjoy every day,” explained Betsey. “Food is something that brings us pleasure but it’s also something that brings people together.”