Help in the Kitchen

Cooking classes heating up
at Venture Out Business Center

Director Pierce has invited in
several area chefs in to lead the classes

(June 2019) – When Samantha Pierce was looking for a way to promote the Venture Out Business Center as a business incubator, she looked toward blending her lifelong hobbies with an idea that she thought could benefit the community. This is how Venture Out’s cooking classes were formed.
“It started as part of our marketing strategy, and we launched in September of last year,” said Pierce, who is the director of Venture Out in Madison, Ind. “A lot of it did come from my personal interest. I really enjoy cooking and baking.”
Currently, Venture Out offers monthly cooking classes for foodies and beginners alike. Pierce said that this year the classes have taken a more streamlined approach through offering two categories of class options: Gourmet at Home and Baking for Beginners. Each class provides a combination of instructor demonstration and hands-on practice.

Photo by Sydney G. Wilson

Venture Out Business Center director Samantha Pierce says she came up with the idea from her own love for cooking.

The monthly classes have offered a variety of themes thus far, from learning how to bake apple muffins or prepare holiday appetizers to an icing class that was offered last December for those wanting to improve their cookie decorating skills.
“That one was really fun. We had all the cookies baked, and we wanted to give them the chance to just come in and play and decorate,” said Pierce.
 “The Gourmet at Home classes focus on recreating the art of fine dining and authentic cuisine at home,” Pierce said. Pierce describes Gourmet at Home as being for those who have an interest in cooking already. “That one is really for people who are into cooking and baking, as well as trying new things in the kitchen. It’s a little more artistic.”
Thus far, the Gourmet at Home classes have featured classes led by Mercy Vanderberg, a master baker from Cincinnati, and Jacob Sams, a chef from Crystal and Jules Restaurant in Madison. Vanderberg provided instruction on how to bake custard tarts and other complex desserts. Sams led two pasta making classes. At the most recent Gourmet at Home class in May, Oscar Rubio, owner of Tapatio Mexican Restaurant, provided instruction on how to make tilapia and fresh guacamole.
Jodi Anderson, a cooking class attendee, has participated in three classes thus far and said that “the classes are a great opportunity for us local foodies to gain a little more knowledge. They also make great date nights for me and my husband.”
Kayla Morrow, another cooking class attendee, said that “the classes have been a great addition to activities available in Madison. It’s introduced me to several ingredients that I had never used in my own kitchen, like goat cheese and grapeseed oil. Now I’m a lot more comfortable buying them to use in my own recipes.”
The Baking for Beginners classes allow individuals the opportunity to work with a partner and sharpen basic baking skills.
“I learned the correct way to roll out a pastry dough in order to leave air in it and other things like how to use a standalone mixer and vanilla beans instead of extract,” Morrow said.
Pierce describes Baking for Beginners as an option for those looking for a fun option for a girl’s night out or families interested in finding a local activity they can all participate in.
“I definitely recommend taking a friend or two with you to the class. You will have a lot more fun and be able to encourage each other through the process,” said Morrow.
Pierce is hoping to provide classes designed for kids only this summer, as well as a class that would provide information on how to start a food business from a business incubator’s perspective. “That class would be more specific. It wouldn’t just be a cooking class but would provide more of the financial and business planning aspects,” she said.
Pierce herself enjoys coming and helping with the classes. “I’m at every single class and am always walking around taking pictures like an Instagram mom,” she said. Pierce is also responsible for planning the classes.
“I call the hosts, figure out what kind of ingredients we need, and create all of the instructions and ingredient lists. Part of the challenge is that every class is different. We have new people and new demographics each time.”
Another main reason Pierce decided to begin offering cooking classes was the opportunity to promote Venture Out’s commercial kitchen. “In 2005, we started our incubator kitchen, which is designed to help small businesses get started. The cooking classes get people in there because a lot of people don’t even know that we have one. It makes it approachable and helps advertise that we have a commercial kitchen available for use.”
Pierce said she has enjoyed planning these classes and bringing a fresh activity to Madison. “We have new people coming in each time. We want these classes to be open to everyone.”
Each class is about two hours long and costs $20-$25 per adult and $15 for children 10 and up. Most classes are able to hold 8-10 people, so Pierce encourages those interested to sign up quickly.

• For more information about upcoming cooking classes, visit the Venture Out Business Center’s Facebook page or by call (812) 273-6510.

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