Why is the kitchen where everyone gathers? We gather in huge kitchens, functional kitchens, cozy kitchens, and even those one-person kitchens. And there are all types of cooks: family chefs, gourmet chefs, entertaining chefs, and even kid chefs. No matter the kitchen or the cook, in the end, we are all in it for the food! And Colorado Springs is lucky enough to have a wide variety of cooking class offerings for any cook and any budget.
Gather Food Studio truly reflects its name, bringing together people, local food, bees from the backyard, and even cutlery from a local bladesmith to create great meals. But cooking is not the only result the founders hope to share with their students. “We want to contribute to building a better food culture in Colorado Springs, and that’s why we set out to create a different type of cooking school,” says Chef and Co-owner Cortney Smith. “Our philosophy is to connect people to their food system. We’ve really gone beyond farm to table. We’d like to see garden to table.”
Located in Old Colorado City, Gather Food Studio & Spice Shop offers a wide range of cooking classes for every demographic. “We offer education while we teach cooking,” says Smith. “We help you become a better functional cook, pick better food, and understand what it is that you are eating.”
Gather Food Studio’s co-owners are about as opposite as oil and vinegar. Chef David Cook is a classically trained French chef with 22 years of East Coast, high-end restaurant experience. Smith grew up in a family restaurant, tried to leave the industry altogether but then returned and took the corporate restaurant route after her culinary training. Armed with a breadth of experience, the two chefs created a unique cooking school that has been going strong for almost four years.
Appealing to a wide variety of students is important to Smith and Cook. “We’ve actually seen a younger demographic showing an interest in learning to cook for themselves,” notes Cook. “When COVID-19 shut down restaurants, all of a sudden 20- and 30-somethings were thinking, ‘We need to know how to cook.’”
Smith loves to share their pandemic pivot story because it’s one of the ways Gather Food Studio survived 2020. “The week we went into lockdown, we created a new way to cook,” she says. “We created one-hour cooking classes online, and the key to our success was putting together recipe food kits. No one wanted to go shopping at that time, so we did.” Clients signed up for a class, picked up their recipe kit, and then went online to cook with 20 or 30 other people. “We weren’t just feeding ourselves food, we were feeding each other as humans,” says Smith. “We actually had to hire staff during the pandemic.”
The Spice Shop aspect of Gather Food Studio came about through the recipes that Cook and Smith would teach in their classes. Many required unusual ingredients or blends they created themselves. The studio started to get a reputation for having highly unusual spices. The two decided to bottle their own spice blends and become that shop where cooks could find that one odd ingredient.
Smith is excited about 2022 as Gather Food Studio introduces a new line of classes called Vintage Vibes. “These classes will focus on classic Americana cooking and recipes,” says Smith. “Of course, we love the history as well as the recipe. For example, the brownie as we know it in America really came from a blondie recipe. We’re losing some of our best vintage recipes, and we want to rediscover those with our students.”
Additional classes include children’s programs and a variety of spring selections from soups to scones.
Americans often want to live abroad, but Europeans also want to move to the United States. That’s how Colorado Springs became the beneficiary of the French Kitchen Culinary Center founder Blandine Mazeran, originally from Lyon, France.
“I visited the United States in high school and loved it. I was tired of my own country and was ready for an adventure,” says Mazeran. “An opportunity presented itself, and I moved. I was a personal chef when I moved to the U.S. and decided it might be time for me to teach others my passion for cooking.” About five years ago, The French Kitchen was born.
“We grew so quickly. We had our cooking classes, our café, our boutique, and a staff of 20,” says Mazeran. And then COVID-19 hit. “I am a fighter and a single mom. We did not take our classes online, but we created a huge frozen market and delivery platform for our products.” It worked, and ramping back up again, the French Kitchen now boasts 60 cooking classes that book up quickly.
Mazeran recently hired Chef Janon Bourgeois, who had the opposite dream: going to France. She had taken over an English-language vacation cooking school, but then the pandemic hit. She moved to Colorado Springs, and the rest, as they say, is history or at least the history of the French Kitchen.
Chef Janon brings a wide array of international dishes to the French Kitchen classes. “It is a true blessing to do what I love as a chef and chef instructor,” she says. “I have students who introduce themselves with ‘I’m a horrible cook’ or ‘I just can’t cook,’ and I love to build their confidence so that they never have to say that again.”
The French Kitchen has an impressive following. “We have a wonderful VIP club, and our students earn perks as they take more and more classes,” says Mazeran. “Our clientele is genuinely like a family. We have VIPs who have taken 200 classes!”
There are more than 100 different classes to choose from with themes, classes for couples, office parties, singles, children, and even birthday parties. And you can even enjoy a glass of wine while you cook.
Mazeran is looking forward to the continued interest in cooking and hopes to expand into a space next door in 2022 with a café space where people can enjoy coffee, lunch, and treats.
“I’m very fortunate to be able to bake all day,” says Deidre Peak, owner/master baker at Sweet Addict Bakery. She began baking and selling confections out of her college condominium with a kitchen the size of a twin bed (for real). After eight years in business selling her baked goods, she started sharing her knowledge and love of baking with others through classes.
“It all started with a friend who taught painting classes, who suggested I should teach as well. I offered one class on how to make our salted caramel,” she says. “It sold out, so I offered another class, which also sold out. It just grew like crazy from there.”
Peak ran with the concept and outgrew her first kitchen off Tejon Avenue in a matter of months. Next was an expansion of her space in Old Colorado City, which she outgrew in a year. Sweet Addict Bakery is now at a new Powers Boulevard location, which can accommodate more students and a greater variety of classes.
“Sweet Addict Bakery came from my love of baking, being a stress eater (sweets, of course), and focusing on a business that would allow me do what I love while letting me work around my family,” she says. “Occasionally, I bring our three daughters to work with me. They inspire great ideas when we schedule kids’ classes.” Other classes include date night, girls’ night, and group classes.
Growing up in a small town with no fast food and a handful of expensive restaurants, Peak says she learned to cook from scratch from her Dutch mother. Deidre credits her mom with being an excellent cook and with the peanut brittle recipe that she sells today.
“Every day is a learning opportunity for my staff and I to continuously improve ourselves personally as well as our offerings to our customers and students,” says Deidre. “We just love to have fun!”