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Calling all Desperate Housewives (and husbands): Cooking Classes at Whisked Away

Posted on: November 8th, 2010 by Taryn Jeffries 1 Comment

Several times a month Chef Maggie Norris opens her beautiful home to teach those of us lacking in kitchen know-how or looking to spice up their personal repertoire. Whisked Away offers a variety of classes to help get you comfortable in your kitchen and whipping up culinary masterpieces in no time.

At first, I was a little thrown that the class was being held in a home, but as soon as I walked through the front door I was immediately put at ease.  Her home is charming and warmly decorated.  The kitchen is exactly as you would imagine: large, open, fully outfitted and well, pretty much perfect!

Maggie has an extensive background.  First off, her mother was a caterer so she was called upon to assist frequently.  She recounted a story of a Christmas break filled with tying bows to packages of gingerbread men instead of playing with friends.  After college, she received cooking classes as a gift and off went the proverbial light above her head.  Soon, she began her culinary career at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute, ensuring that she graduated at the top of her class so that she could do her externship at the Food Network.  She told she arrived in New York shortly after 9/11.  The tone was different than she remembered, having grown up in DC.  Odd as it may sound, it was warmer.  Everyone was on the same page about where they wanted the country to be.  The pace was a bit slower, the people a bit more friendly.  Here she worked for Mario Batali and was able to rub elbows with Emeril, Gale Gand, Sara Moulton, Kat Cora, Rocco Dispirto (can you hear me seething with jealousy??) and many other big names.

Upon returning to Arizona, she taught at the now disbanded Cooking with Class.  She then went on to do cooking demonstrations for Dacor Appliances in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Tucson. About a year ago her neighbors found out that she had led cooking classes and gave her the necessary nudge to get started on her own…and now we all have the opportunity to attend any of the variety of classes offered by Whisked Away.  The classes are so popular that she is booked through February – and it didn’t take long for me, or any of the other attendees, to figure out why.

Maggie is warm and patient and very present.  She wants the experience to be very laid back and enjoyable for everyone.  After a very short time it feels as if you are in your own kitchen with a few friends.  She is very high energy and very informative without talking down to anyone.  She wants to make sure she covers all the bases – so no one walks into the kitchen and has that deer in the headlights look going on.

She provided many tips and tricks as we walked through the recipes.  As with my review of AndyFood – I will not reveal them.  You really do need to attend a class to get the whole experience.  I will tell you that she despises when a menu notes the wrong version of “filet” for the wrong foods.  She told us that for fish there should be 2 l’s and only one with beef.  I hate to admit it, but I had no idea.

We made a lovely Italian meal.  I was on the cheesy garlic bread station with a lovely young man – and I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I tell you that this is hands-down the absolute best garlic bread that has ever passed my lips.  Simple but so incredible!  We also dined on a traditional Bolognese and Béchamel Lasagna, Classic Caesar salad and a de’light’ful tiramisu.  The dinner was incredible and the company a treat.

Please visit whiskedaway.net and schedule your class, you will not be disappointed on any level.

If you will excuse me, I need to run to the store for some ingredients – I have garlic bread on the brain now!!

Read Taryn’s interview with Maggie

Taryn Jeffries: I have to ask about working at the Food Network.  What would you consider to be your most memorable experience there?

Chef Maggie Norris: Working with Mario Batali.  I did his food props.  He was the most professional person I met.  He really knew what he was doing and really didn’t care about he lime light.  It typically takes two weeks to tape a season.  Most people would come in and tape a show or two a day.  Mario would come in and film from 8am to 2pm only to leave and go run his restaurant.  I love that level of professionalism.  He wasn’t affected. He really loves what he’s doing and he’s not trying to be something he’s not.  He’s very authentic.

Taryn: What motivated you to create Whisked Away?

Maggie: It didn’t click for me until I took cooking classes.  I knew that I didn’t want to own a restaurant.  I just knew that at some point I wanted to teach.

Taryn: If you had to get rid of all but one cookbook in your collection, what would you hang on to?

Maggie: Oh, I am struggling between 2:  Martha Stewart’s 2002 Compilation.  I always go to this for seasonal menu ideas.  There are so many solid recipes in there.  I have to say The Joy of Cooking as well.  You can spin off so many of the recipes.  It just shows you how to do everything, from very basic recipes to complex.

Taryn: What kitchen gadget could you not live without?

Maggie: My Vitamix Mixer.  I love it because you can do anything in there!  I didn’t buy one jar of baby food (her daughter is 18 months old).  I make a killer tangelo margarita as well.

Taryn: Favorite Cooking Show?

Maggie: Food Network is now more reality shows, but I recently got into Chopped.  Oh, and I love Man Vs Food.  Its not like I can learn anything from it but I love all those places that he goes to.  I always watch and think, Oh, If calories didn’t exist!  I told my husband that we should set up a Man Vs Food followers blog and go to each place that he has been and compare it to his views.

Taryn: What is a favorite restaurant of ours that you could recommend to our readers?

Maggie: I go to different restaurants for different things.  For bruchetta I love Postino’s.  I love the Green Chili Stew at Roaring Fork and I love the Pretzel Bites at Culinary Dropout.

Taryn: A bit of advice for the home enthusiast?

Maggie: Let go in the kitchen.  Recipes are guidelines only.  It’s okay if you want to get creative.  That’s how some of the best things are created.  Brownies were created only because someone left the flour out of a cake recipe.  Don’t be afraid.

Student Responses

Chris (attended with her sister):

Chris: The highlight of the class would be the doing and mingling.  I like the social aspect – finding common interest between all of us.  I really like Maggie’s style.  She’s not demeaning and is very open.

Gina (Chris’ sister):

Gina: I enjoyed all the little secrets, something as simple as cutting an onion.  I loved the entire process, learning all the things that my mother never taught me!

Tarra (a recent transplant from Wisconsin):

Tarra: I will most certainly be making the Tiramisu at home.  I will try a little bit of everything but will try to experiment a little as well. I really had a lot of fun and it was a great opportunity to have a great meal.  I have already told a friend about the class (prior to coming) and convinced her to bring her daughter for the kids cooking class.

Shannon (bought four spots in upcoming classes!):

Shannon: This is the perfect way to try your hand at cooking in a relaxing environment and then you can try it at home.

View photos of the evening:

About the Author - Taryn Jeffries

Editor and Chief Eating Officer of PhoenixBites, Taryn grew up in a small town in Illinois with a doting Grandmother who taught her the way around a kitchen and that food is representative of love. Her current quest is to find the love in local dishes and the chefs behind them. In addition to running all things PhoenixBites, Taryn is also a monthly contributor to So Scottsdale and Uptown Magazines, sharing her insight on the best dishes and where to get them each and every month.

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One Response

  1. George Thomasson says:

    Chef Maggie has the personality, skill and confidence to go the distance in her field. Your excellent article covers the bases and fully supports her talents.

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