North Park’s Hipcooks San Diego makes cooking easy & fun
By Cynthia Robertson | SDUN Reporter
The Hipcooks San Diego in North Park is indeed the hip place in the neighborhood for anyone who wants to venture into the world of cooking. For its open house event on Aug. 30, the wonderful smells emanating from the small school had passersby continually dropping in.
Manager Christina Espinosa, petite and all smiles, stood behind the giant kidney-bean shaped cooking island. She whipped up creations including an endive stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese and caramelized pears.
“It’s a party,” Espinosa said. “Help yourself to some spicy candied nuts.”
The cooking school, located at 4048 30th St., offers several three-hour classes for $55 per person. Pre-registration is required, and class sizes are limited, based on topic. Some upcoming classes are “The Thrill of the Grill” on Sunday, Sept. 15, “Dim Sum and then Some” on Sept. 22 and “OMG-Cooking for a Crowd” on Sept. 24. New classes are posted each month.
Jessica and Rob Miles walked in for the open house, and went straight up to Espinosa. Naturally, they wanted to know what was cooking, as the couple had taken a previous class at Hipcooks.
“We decided to learn how to cook paella because it sounded interesting,” Jessica Miles said. “We learned that you don’t need a big paella pan to make it.”
Rob Miles said it had been a fun experience to get everyone together, and they plan on taking another soon. “We all made different variations of paella. Then we all got to eat it, too,” he said. “Next time we’ll take the tapas class.”
Espinosa’s assistant Robin Ross removed a large cooking sheet of treats from the oven. “These are prosciutto-wrapped, goat cheese-stuffed dates, unlike anything you’ve ever tasted,” Ross said.
The evening was indeed a party for Hipcooks friends.
“Hipcooks is all about having fun in the kitchen and having fun making great food,” Espinosa said.
Open for two years, Espinosa said she believes North Park is the perfect fit for Hipcooks. The North Park school is the fourth for the company in California, and the first in San Diego. They also run Hipcooks schools in Portland, Ore. and Seattle.
“It’s a great foodie neighborhood with lots of great foot traffic, and it just really suits our personality as a company. It’s hip, inviting, has really developed over the last few years and continues to grow,” she said.
All of the classes are hands-on with the students cooking each of the dishes together at the island. In each class, Espinosa said, the teachers bring out the “inner chef” of each student to help everyone feel more comfortable in the kitchen, and to empower them to go home and create delicious food.
Christina Leeper, who dropped in to sample the black bean hummus and stuffed endive, had taken a previous class, called “Thai One On,” with a friend.
“It’s a nice communal atmosphere to learn in. Christina [Espinosa] is a great instructor,” Leeper said. “In ‘Thai One On,’ we used all of the tastes found in food: spicy, sweet, salty, bitter and sour.”
What Leeper particularly enjoyed about the Thai class was the way Espinosa had organized the dinner, starting with spring rolls and a shrimp and rice appetizer. Next were pad Thai and a papaya salad. After that, the cooking students prepared two curry dishes.
“We got to sit down and enjoy it course by course,” Leeper said. “Christina [Espinosa] had prepared the dessert beforehand, so as we sat eating that, she explained more about Thai cooking.”
Leeper said that after she had completed the class, she and her friend planned when they would try to cook that meal at home for their husbands.
Hipcooks San Diego offers instruction appropriate for anyone with a desire to learn. A class on proper knife skills, a new technique or the use of an unfamiliar ingredient may be just the secret to a rediscovered joy in cooking.
Still, not everyone who walks in the door thinks of themself as a cook, much less a gourmet chef. Espinosa remembered one young woman who had come to take a cooking class only to appease a friend.
“She said she did not like to cook. I asked her ‘why not,’ and she said she had thought it was always time consuming,” Espinosa said. “Well, she took our class and she totally changed her mind. She never thought cooking could be so easy and fun.”
Thom Nickelson, who prefers to eat vegetarian meals, appreciated the variety of appetizers Espinosa had set out for the open house. He particularly enjoyed the roasted tomato salsa.
“I’m looking at the menu created in the ‘Game Day’ cooking class. Looks good,” he said. “I’ll wait to see what my friends decide what they want to try.”
Espinosa smiled at Nickelson, saying, “I love that Hipcooks is in North Park. We try to become part of the neighborhood and help build community.”
For more information about Hipcooks San Diego in North Park, visit sandiego.hipcooks.com or call 619-269-8844.