In the middle of the 20th Century, the United States was largely considered a backwater in the culinary world. It took a whole host of chefs and restaurateurs to elevate the restaurants and food in America to put its scene on par with the world’s best. Among the many pioneers, three have added enormously to cooking in the States: Thomas Keller, Alice Waters, and Wolfgang Puck.
Keller’s precision and Francophilia brought American fine dining to new levels. Waters’ approach to produce ushered in an era of farm-to-table cooking. And Wolfgang Puck’s California cuisine merged multiple cultures on each plate. And now, each of these three will teach you to cook. No, not personally at your home, but via in-depth courses created by the online instruction company MasterClass.
The courses are a series of video lessons, highlighting a particular technique or dish, with the chefs walking you through each preparation. There are also tasks to help you improve your skills and a workbook you can download that supplements the video lesson with assignments and recipes. There’s even an option where you can upload videos of yourself to receive critiques from the instructor.
As the only American chef with two restaurants holding three Michelin stars (The French Laundry and Per Se), Keller is an ideal teacher of technique, as the level of detail he brings even to the simplest of dishes—like his beloved roast chicken—will benefit the home cook. His cookbook Ad Hoc at Home has been one of my most used and reliable tomes in my cooking arsenal since I was first given it in 2009.
At her restaurant, Chez Panisse in Berkley, Calif., Alice Waters has emphasized a connection to the earth in cooking. The food served is seasonal and ingredient-driven. Those are things that practically feel cliché at this point, but when she started were far from the norm at restaurants across America. From Waters you’ll learn grilling, baking, roasting, salad making, sourcing products seasonally, menu planning, and tips on entertaining.
Puck, the Austrian-born restaurateur who practically invented the celebrity chef with his flagship restaurant Spago, will explore basics of dish creation, plating, sauces, and menu planning. Always the lively raconteur and inveterate name-dropper, he intermixes his lessons with amusing anecdotes about wanting to cook, learning to be a chef, and the inspiration behind his singular and iconic approach to cuisine.
Each instructor has released a trailer for their respective class, so people can get a feel for the personality and shape of the course. Classes are $90 for unlimited access for a single instructor, or $180 per year for access to all of the courses, which includes Martin Scorsese on filmmaking, Steph Curry on basketball, and Shonda Rhimes on writing for television.