A Day at the San Francisco Cooking School

August 14, 2013

From a distance it doesn’t look like a cooking school. It could easily be mistaken for a boutique, or better yet, an art gallery. But once the glare of the windows clears and you open the door, if you have even the slightest interest in cooking, your heart skips a beat. It’s then that you realize that this is an art gallery, a hands-on gallery for the art of cooking.

Beautifully set, modern tables were the first thing I encountered. A clear sign that lunch would be delicious. Then the colorful Dutch ovens and well-organized white dishes that line each shelf caught my attention. I marveled over the ovens and ranges for a bit, and then I found my work station.


This was my first time visiting the San Francisco Cooking School. The 10 or 12 of us there were the lucky ones who responded quickly enough to an email inviting us to attend a Knife Skills workshop for food media.

We received a condensed version of the class with instruction on the various knife cuts while we prepped the ingredients for Minestrone Soup with Pesto. David taught us about batonnet and julienne while Jodi filled us in on the details of the school and the classes they offer.

What a diverse line up of classes. In addition to Knife Skills, you can take courses in Cooking Fundamentals, Soba Making, French Macarons, Recipe Testing and Development along with their Cook the Book series which features recipes from cookbooks focused on a variety of ethnic cuisines. If you want to take your cooking beyond your own kitchen, they also offer full-time and part-time culinary and pastry arts certificate programs.

As we chopped up the ingredients that we later took home to make our own minestrone soup, David finished up the class by making a rustic pesto. Jodi served up the soup they made earlier which would serve as our lunch along with crusty bread, a delicious salad with seasonal stone fruits, and wine.

I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest minestrone fan, but the pesto on this soup made all the difference. After more enjoyable conversation about the school with David and Jodi, we ended our meal with some of the best cookies I’ve had the pleasure of eating – almond, chocolate, candied ginger, and rosemary and cornmeal. These cookies had me scouring the website to find a course that would teach me how to make them.

Jodi granted me permission to reprint the soup recipe for you. It is the perfect summer-to-autumn transition meal. It is warm and comforting for the cooler days ahead, and it uses up late summer and autumn vegetables. 

Enjoy the soup, and when in San Francisco, check out the San Francisco Cooking School. I assure you there are few more inspiring or enjoyable places to cook.

Minestrone with Pesto

Reprinted with permission from Jodi at the San Francisco Cooking School

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups diced onion
2 medium carrots, cut in ½-inch dice
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, finely sliced
2 stalks celery, cut in ½-inch pieces
Coarse salt and fresh pepper to taste
2 potatoes, peeled and cut in ½-inch dice
6 cups hot chicken or vegetable stock
1 (14 ounce) can chopped tomatoes
1 ½ cups Savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
1 ½ cups zucchini, cut in ½-inch dice
1 (14 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups gently packed basil leaves
1 medium garlic clove, chopped
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan

In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the onions, carrots, leeks and celery with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables are lightly browned and begin to soften, 5-6 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, 2-3 minutes more.

Stir in the chicken broth, tomatoes and a pinch each of salt and pepper and cook until all the vegetables are tender, about 1 hour. Add the cabbage, zucchini and beans. Cook until cabbage and zucchini are just tender with a bit of a bite, about 6 minutes more.

While the soup is cooking, make the pesto. Using your knife, finely chop the basil, garlic, and pine nuts together. Place in a small bowl and add the oil until the mixture is shiny and moist. Stir in the cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the soup with a drizzle of the fresh pesto over the top. Serves 6.

Disclosure:  My visit to the San Francisco Cooking School was part of a free food media event. I was not required to post about my visit and received no compensation for doing so.

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  • lisa is cooking August 15, 2013 at 7:23 am

    What a great looking space! Minestrone is one of my favorite soups to make. Love the pesto on top.

  • Lori August 15, 2013 at 7:53 am

    Lisa – It was so much fun! And the pesto is a perfect topper. I really liked it.