Lessons come in all shapes and sizes, but the important point in my opinion is to find hands-on instruction. Hands-off classes can be very informative, but in some ways they're a little too passive for a date, almost like watching a movie. With hands-on classes you get to dice ingredients together, sample the dish, talk about what you're doing, is it right, is it wrong, and the like, rather than just watching and taking notes. Sushi is one example of a fun hands-on class; when watching you don't realize just how sticky the rice gets or the correct pressure to use on rolls, but in a hands-on class you're facing those issues with an instructor right there to offer advice and answer questions. Intimate classes in the 8-10 person range are ideal, but not always realistic, try to find one with fewer than 25 people. Classes usually last between 2 1/2 - 3 hours.
Classes are held at a number of different venues: cooking schools, community colleges (continuing education), local restaurants, cookware shops, or even in your own home. The hands-down best way to find good classes is to search through your regional Yelp or Chowhound message boards for recommendations. This is where you'll find a lot of foodies who have tried classes around town and have great advice to offer. If there aren't any recent threads, post a question of your own asking for suggestions. Another good resource is cookware shops, like Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, and even Macy's. The counter people or managers should have a handle on the local cooking scene, and may even offer classes in that very store. Also consider the food section of your local newspaper, or the 'classes' section on craigslist.
If you have a large, well-equipped kitchen, you may consider hiring a chef for a personal lesson. Get together a bunch of friends to share the cost and have a blast!
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