How many people can say they've ever been instructed by a world renowned chef? I know I never had until a couple of weeks ago, when I took my first ever cooking class. I was fortunate enough to be taught by Jonadab Silva; founder, head chef and CEO of the prepared meal delivery company, Cooked.
Jona grew up in the small town of San Marcos, Mexico. He was born in a “fonda” otherwise known as “a tavern, inn, or small restaurant,” owned and operated by his parents. It was here that he was raised among the smells of roasted tomatoes and jalapeño, and on the foundation of tortilla making.
Jona's passion for food led him to pursue a culinary education at the ITHQ in Montreal, Canada at the young age of 16. His knowledge took him throughout Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa. All of this traveling helped Jona to develop his cooking skills, but most importantly, re-assert his love for authentic cuisine, and the authenticity of ingredients, techniques, and flavors. Jona's love of learning continues today, as he presently take classes at the CIA Hyde Park campus as a Pro-Chef student.
This specific class, “Tacos and Table Salsas y Margaritas” was inspired by the cooking styles and recipes that dominated Jona’s childhood. Growing up in Mexico, Jona was exposed to a multitude of ingredients and unique flavors that he brings into his recipes at Cooked. As veggies are being roasted on the thick griddle, he reflects on the smells that linger in the air, as they so fondly remind him of home.
The class begins with a session on homemade margaritas. Each student is equipped with his/her very own martini shaker and all of the mixings to make a delicious marg. I was surprised at how easy and quick it was to concoct the drink. Even the simple syrup, the most complex ingredient of the bunch, can be made right at home, with just sugar and water. It saves you a little extra cash by not having to go out and buy a brand new bottle of the sweet liquid.
We then moved on to one of the taco mixings; “Calabasitas.” The mixture consisted of various, freshly chopped veggies, cooked over the stove. Secret, Mexican-authentic ingredients gave the dish a unique flavor that isn’t found in a combination of your average American garden vegetables. The finishing touch, sour cream, gave a rich addition to an otherwise healthy meal. Jona gave us directions on how to chop the veggies, and when to add what ingredients in order to perfect the dish’s taste.
Next came the second taco filling; “Camarones a la Diabla,” otherwise known as “Devil Shrimp” when translated to English. I’m not too sure why these shrimp were referred to as “devilish,” but I’m now starting to think it was due to their dangerously delicious taste. The secret to this recipe is the roasted garlic, created with the addition of olive oil, that gives it the perfect finishing touch. Also made over the stove, the Camarones a la Diabla seemed to be the most difficult recipe of the bunch. It’s all about perfecting the consistency of the deep red sauce! Not too soupy, yet not too viscous.
To complement our taco fillings, we created two unique salsas by combining various vegetables in a food processor (you can also use a blender). We created a Salsa de Molcajete, which consists of roasted vegetables, salt, and water! Healthy and delicious. My personal favorite dish was the Salsa Verde Cruda, whose star ingredient is the small, green tomatoes, tomatillos, also known as the “Mexican husk tomato.”
The best part of the evening was finishing off with a group meal. We were allowed to enjoy our creations and take home any leftover salsas, fillings, and tortillas. I had lunch and dinner for the rest of the week. Qué delicioso!
Coming from someone who doesn’t know too much about cooking, I felt like an old pro in the kitchen after the two hour session, due to Jona’s patience and guidance. Give the gift of a cooking class this holiday season! Perfect for couples, friends, or families!