Before taking Alice Waters Masterclass course, I considered myself to be an experienced home cook. However, by the end of it I realised that there were in fact a lot of gaps in my knowledge.
Gaps that Alice filled and then some. She really is an exceptional teacher. For me, this course was quite literally inspirational.
Her attention to detail is 2nd to none, yet she never goes over the top. Each class tells you exactly what you need to know, no more, no less.
All in all I can highly recommend Alice’s Home Cooking course. You can find out why I say this by reading my review below.
A refreshingly different cooking class
The thing I liked most about Alice’s cooking class is the fact that it was so different.
She does not focus on recipes. It is the ingredients you learn about, first. She explains how to get the most out farmer’s markets. How to pick the freshest, in season produce and let it inspire you.
Alice Waters Food Philosophy
“Recipes are a framework, the most important thing is the ingredient – where you find it, how you cook it and how you will turn it into a beautiful meal.” – Alice Waters – Masterclass
Her advice to go to the market, choose the freshest ingredients, then decide what to cook is brilliant. If a little scary.
I have started doing exactly that and it has transformed my cooking. You will be surprised by how easy this is to do. Importantly, she demonstrates how to do this in the videos, taking you through her thought process when she decides what to cook.
A lesson in how to get the best out of the farmer’s market
For me, the most important video in the 16(17) video course, was the one where she explains how to get the most out of your local farmer’s market. Importantly, the principles she explains here can still be applied even if you need to buy most of your food from supermarkets.
When you speak to the person who has grown or reared the things you are buying you learn a lot. For example, who knew that if you store pears properly they can be kept for 4 months.
Her Follow the Rhythms of Nature – Eating Seasonally video contains some of her best ingredient buying tips. The workbook for this lesson is particularly revealing. Plenty of extra details, which is a welcome feature of most of the sections of her workbooks.
Throughout the course, Alice reminded me to use all of my senses when deciding what to buy. For example, smelling something before you buy tells you so much, so don’t forget to do that.
Simple dishes anyone can cook
Despite what I said earlier, about Alice not focusing on recipes, there are still plenty of them demonstrated in the videos. I tell you more about them further down this page. But, for now, her egg on a spoon is a great example of a quick recipe that anyone can cook.
Learn different cooking techniques effortlessly
Alice Waters does not take you through different cooking techniques video by video. But, you are going to learn all kinds of ways to cook your food as you go through her course. She has been careful to include recipes that will get you steaming, roasting, pickling, brining, sauteing and much much more. Without realising it you will end up expanding your skill set and enhancing your food.
For example, I had never thought to shave my vegetables for a salad rather than slicing or grating them. For me, her shaved salad was a revelation. The vegetables really take on the flavour of the dressing. It is a great way to enjoy a fresh, raw salad.
Wonderful workbooks with plenty of extra tips
Alice has gone the extra mile when she has written her workbook. As well as the videos, you are getting access to enough information to fill several cookbooks.
This means that the course represents great value for money.
Little tips that are going to make a big difference
I really enjoyed the way Alice shared little tips with the audience that are not strictly speaking related to cooking, but are nonetheless important. For example, giving kids vegetables for their after school snack. They are very hungry at that time of the day, so it is surprisingly how easily they will eat food they would normally reject.
Alice Waters essential kitchen tools
Using the right tools makes the whole cooking process so much easier and enjoyable. So, it was nice to see Alice going through here kitchen tools and explaining how she uses each item.
I already had a lot of the tools, but did go out and buy a couple of suribachis after hearing what Alice had to say about them. These Japanese pestles and mortars have little groves built into the base, which makes pulverising garlic and other ingredients much faster and easier. I was really pleased I listened and treated myself to two of them. They also make wonderful presentation dishes.
However, you are going to be very surprised by her knife buying advice. I was stunned to learn that she mostly uses just 4 knives and, occasionally, a wicked looking Russian cleaver.
Alice Waters cookware advice
Again, with Alice, when it comes to cookware, less is more. Her advice about buying a heavy roasting tray is excellent. It will cook evenly and stop you from burning one side of your vegetables.
Most of the cookware she owns is good-looking enough to go straight from the oven or cooker top to the table. Another nice lifestyle tip. So, sensible and good for the planet too because you do not have to own so many items.
Learn to stock your pantry the Waters way
A well stocked pantry is a great way to make sure that you are ready to take advantage of freshest ingredients. This section of the cooking course explains the essentials you will need. Plus, provides you with 7 dishes you can make at the drop of a hat using what you have in your pantry.
Be sure to pay attention to the section about olive oil. It contains particularly good advice and I really like the idea of getting together with friends in the spring to taste the latest bottles. I’ve not done this yet, but am planning to do so.
Make your own pantry staples
Learning to turn some of your leftovers into pantry staples is an excellent idea. You can also use many of the same techniques to get more out of fruits and vegetables, when they are in season.
Her quick pickling technique was a revelation. But, it his her garlic sauteed greens recipe that I liked the best.
I have never eaten enough greens, so when I discovered you could cook a big batch and put some of them in the fridge I tried it. Adding a handful to a omelette for breakfast is a wonderful way to start the day right. I also like the oat pancakes, which you can eat straight away or use later.
Learn how Alice Waters uses herbs, aromatics and leaves
Alice loves to use the herbs and aromatics that she grows herself. She offers some wonderful tips to help you to do the same. I especially like the fact that she she finds ways to use the entire plant. For example, using the stems of rosemary to skewer meats before cooking it. Very tasty, and ideal for barbecues.
Chez Panisse recipes revealed
Alice Waters and Paul Aratow’s award winning restaurant Chez Panisse opened in 1971. It is where the California cuisine movement was born.
During her course, Alice her daughter and chefs reveal many of their best recipes. It is great to see these simple recipes reproduced in such detail.
Here is a taste of the dishes and foods you will learn to make many of which are regularly served up in this famous restaurant:
- How to make fresh pasta – a wonderful class – it contains plenty of little tips like how not to make the classic mistake of producing a pasta dough that is too wet
- A wonderful dessert – this sounds silly, but by choosing fruits in season, tasting them properly, working out the flavours and presenting them well, a bowl of fruit makes a wonderful dessert
- The perfect vinaigrette – a versatile dressing that I now use a lot
- Aioli – a wonderful, versatile sauce/dressing that is nearly as good as my friend Herminia’s version
- Compotes – a fantastic way to bring out and enhance the flavor of fresh fruit
- Waking up olives and nuts – you have never tasted olives or nuts like this, her almonds and rosemary recipe is divine
- Tasty salads – throughout the course, Alice creates simple, colourful salads
- A full dinner menu – this simple menu is one you can cook throughout the year, your friends and family are sure to love it
- Autumn harvest soup – Alice’s edible schoolyard project inspired this versatile and super healthy recipe. For me this video was literally inspirational, it included a fantastic aha moment
You will also find extra recipes in the workbook and the Hub (community). Plus, you also get access to playlist recipes, including some from other masterclass.com chefs.
Well worth the money
As you can see, I found this course delightful. When I took Alice’s home cooking course I had already completed Gordon Ramsey’s two masterclasses and Thomas Keller’s. They were all excellent, but Alice’s was by far the most enjoyable and informative. At $90 it is a bargain.
But, I strongly recommend that you take the extra step of paying the $180 and getting your all areas masterclass pass. I have definitely benefited from taking more than one cooking course and am looking forward to taking some of the photography and writing ones too. If you want to find out more about the all areas pass just read my masterclass review by clicking here.
Two tiny niggles
Alice Waters cooking masterclass is as close to perfect as it is possible to get. However, you do need to be aware that some of the videos are nearly 30 minutes long. This is fine for most people, but I struggle to find blocks of time where I can concentrate fully for that long. Personally, I would have preferred shorter videos.
Plus, with Alice’s videos I was unable to employ my favourite trick of watching at double speed. She talks faster than you think, particularly when she is speaking about things she is extremely enthusiastic about.
I would also like to have seen Alice cooking more recipes. Hopefully, she will address this by producing another masterclass.com course. When she does, my all-access pass will enable me to watch it without having to pay extra to be able to do so.