Invitation to Cook in Arkansas
What's better than gently pinching the leaves of an herb plant and smelling the rich aroma of mint, basil and oregano? Cooking with them, of course. Two of the best culinary vacation destinations in the state offering very different experiences are the Ozark Folk Center State Park in Mountain View, providing a pioneer perspective on gardening and cooking with herbs, and Winthrop Rockefeller Institute near Morrilton, where you can live like a Rockefeller. In Fayetteville, you can sharpen your culinary skills at a cooking academy. Arkansas also offers numerous classes for those interested in the Dutch oven. Explore a few of Arkansas’s culinary tourism opportunities below!
The Winthrop Rockefeller Institute in the most central of the 6 regions of Arkansas entertains and educates with food in a classroom designed specifically for culinary arts. The Saturday Chef's Series is a one-day, hands-on class for recreational cooks. The class at the Institute is very popular, as is this facility for its amenities and proximity to Petit Jean State Park.
The Institute's Heritage Farmstead is home to examples of the agriculture of Arkansas, including orchards and a heritage garden of indigenous plants. The demonstration gardens are tied to what the mountain was like in 1953 when Rockefeller purchased the property and serve as an example of a self-sufficient farm. The chef is able to use some of the harvest in dishes for the Institute's restaurant, but also has a culinary garden with herbs used specifically for classes.
The late Winthrop Rockefeller was a two-term governor of Arkansas and great philanthropist to the state. His legacy is one of innovation and public policy with an emphasis in arts and education. His vision can be seen today on the land he once farmed atop Petit Jean Mountain.
The Winthrop Rockefeller Institute in partnership with the University of Arkansas System functions primarily as an educational conference center, but also offers a range of programs and activities for participants of diverse backgrounds, interests and perspectives. It is a place for study, a place for policy initiative, a place for continuing education, and a place for recreation and relaxation.
It's a place of beauty to go whether tackling a difficult public policy issue or making soup.
For more information and directions, phone 501-727-5435 or visit their website at www.RockefellerInstitute.org.
Each spring and fall, the center hosts a special herb dinner and seminar weekend for herb gardening enthusiasts. Program speakers - herbalists, garden designers, authors and chefs - come straight from the pages of the nation's favorite herb and gardening magazines.
The Ozark Folk Center is home to one of the most diverse organic herb gardens in the nation. The organic greenhouse is a living classroom for organic herb growing classes held during the cooler parts of the year. Arranged in cottage garden planting, the plants of the Heritage Herb Garden are old time pass-a-long plants, and are members of the center's herb collections such as rosemary, scented geranium, sages, mints, and coneflowers.
In addition to the larger spring and fall herb festivals, the center offers workshops covering many interests -- the culture of herbs, herb gardening, container gardening and cooking with herbs. You can also find medicinal herbs used for home remedies or by yarb doctors, see herbs used to produce dyes, and explore scented or edible herbs. With more than a dozen distinct herb gardens no garden enthusiast will be disappointed.
Since the best way to learn is hands-on experience, you can also take part in the "gardening angel" volunteer program, where you can work and play in the gardens with the center's herbalist. Gardening and herb workshops are held throughout the regular Folk Center season (mid April through October). Organic Gardening workshops are also offered during Ozark Folk School in March.
For additional information or to set up your workshop call 870-269-3851 or visit www.OzarkFolkCenter.com.
Dutch Oven Cooking
Numerous Arkansas State Parks offer programs on Dutch oven cooking. The Dutch oven is the official cooking vessel of the state. At most of these workshops participants will prepare three or more dishes. Space for each is limited and reservations are required. Most classes are three hours. Admission ranges from $12 to $40. At some workshops the fee includes a Dutch oven to take home. Some events are demonstrations only and are free. Find more information on these and other events at the Calendar of Events or visit www.ArkansasStateParks.com.
Little Rock Classes
Discover if your young one is the next Emeril Lagasse or Julia Child by enrolling them in the Kids Cook classes. These culinary classes for kids are held in various locations around Little Rock. The hands-on culinary classes for kids combine fun, eating and learning. There is an emphasis on skills, nutrition and self-confidence, with the objective of involving the entire family in the cooking process. You will find a schedule of classes on www.KidsCookArkansas.com.
A variety of cooking classes, including ones just for kids, are offered at Eggshells, a full-service shop specializing in the unusual and spectacular needs for the kitchen. Located in the Historic Heights District of Little Rock, you'll find cook's tools, cookware and bakeware, table accessories, cutting surfaces, barware, books, cutlery and more at the store.
The state-of-the-art Pulaski Technical College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute offers community cooking classes available to anyone. They usual are three-to-four hour sessions which are taught by PTC chef instructors. A schedule of what is offers can be found here: http://pulaskitech.edu/continuing_education/
Around the State
Nibbles Academy of Cooking in Fayetteville is a hands-on recreational cooking school with classes for private parties, like a bunch of girlfriends. Enhancing your culinary skills, each student learns hands-on preparation, and has individual working space. All equipment and food products are provided. Then you get to dine on your creations! Classes range from traditional skills to world cuisine such as Mexican, Italian, Spanish, French, seafood, and Creole. Mixology, a bartending class, and wine and food paring are other choices. Find details at www.NibblesAcademyOfCooking.com. Near Mountain Home, Blue Lady Resort will help set up culinary vacation classes for groups staying at the resort, which also has its own wine tasting room for the owner's family wine label Raimondo. You can also add on houseboat cruises, art classes, spa services, and shopping excursions.