Here’s some food for thought: Spending time in the kitchen with others leads to better bonding opportunities. From creating cherished memories and building trust to sharing stories, breaking bread together shows how the power of a meal can forge relationships. Michelle Hohman was raised in a home where food, cooking and eating were how her family connected, and those special experiences were what inspired her to open Urban Kitchen in 2013.
“I wanted to make a space where people could create a meal and enjoy it together,” Hohman said. “A lot of people don’t get the chance to cook meals at home, so they come here and our guest chef instructors share knowledge, tips and tricks that you don’t have to pay a lot of money to learn or spend years in a restaurant learning. We have a lot of people who come to us with very few skills and they leave here with the ability to make fresh meals at home.”
Hohman, who was trained at Le Cordon Bleu with restaurant and test kitchen experience, teaches many of the classes at Urban Kitchen. She also employs several guest instructors including Chef Matthew Roberts, formerly of Union Restaurant, and Food Network star Jane Soudah—who is currently leading the Breads & Desserts class, which guides attendees through the process of making delicious homemade bread, jam and butter. Hohman also has an assistant who helps out during classes, and she brings in a couple of interns from South Pasadena High School every quarter to lend a hand as well.
Other class offerings include Simple Seafood Suppers, Classic Steakhouse and Art of Pasta Making. “We always do one cut pasta and one filled pasta, which will vary depending on the season,” Hohman said. “The filling could be anything from roasted butternut squash to three-cheese tortellini. There’s always a first course, like right now we’re making roasted tomato bruschetta with a ricotta spread and balsamic syrup drizzle, as well as a dessert course. In Classic Steakhouse, we teach you how to properly pan-sear a steak, then butter baste it with garlic and thyme. We’ll also teach you how to prepare scalloped potatoes, honey-glazed carrots, a wedge salad with blue cheese vinaigrette, and chocolate cake with espresso whipped cream.”
The pasta and steak classes are offered regularly and often sell out, so Hohman recommends signing up in advance on Urban Kitchen’s website. Different seasonal classes, like making desserts as holiday gifts, are added to the schedule sporadically. When the weather is nice, Hohman offers a Farmer’s Market Bounty class, where she takes students down to the local farmers’ market and teaches them how to pick fresh produce, then brings them back to cook with the ingredients they’ve gathered.
During the summer, Hohman offers her popular Kids Camps, which run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and are for kids between the ages of nine and 14. The camps teach classic and innovative cooking techniques, and participants get the opportunity to do things like make pasta and pizza dough from scratch, as well as create fun desserts such as rainbow cupcakes and French macarons. On the final day of each week-long session, the kids participate in a friendly cooking competition where they have to create a meal using the techniques they’ve learned over the days prior.
“We’re constantly amazed at what these kids can put together,” Hohman exclaimed. “They’re really open to learning, and after they watch us do something they remember it like muscle memory. It’s really rewarding for us, them, and the parents.”
Urban Kitchen’s classes are offered onsite in a loft-style setting, which has an industrial feel to it. When Hohman took over the space, she and her contractor completely renovated everything—they tore down the ceiling, redid the beams, and exposed the brick which had previously been covered up.
“I wanted to create a kitchen that people would want in their homes,” Hohman remarked. “Some cooking schools have restaurant kitchens with restaurant equipment. I wanted to do the opposite. I wanted people to be able to learn how to make a meal and visualize themselves doing it at home. So that’s why this space is purposely designed as a home kitchen.”
Classes typically cost between $65 and $70, while the two-day Skills for Crafting Meals workshop costs $130. Class sizes range from eight to 10 people and are three hours long, with the first two hours spent cooking and the last hour feasting on their culinary creations together. Recreational cooking classes are normally offered on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons.
While Urban Kitchen isn’t a walk-in establishment, it does have regular business hours so that people can call in with questions or sign up for a class. When Hohman isn’t teaching classes, she’s busy leading cooking classes that focus on corporate team building for major corporations like Disney, Kaiser and Nestle. She also caters private parties and events, often partnering with Spotted Hen Catering, which is owned by Chef Terri Wahl, who is another guest instructor at Urban Kitchen.
The cooking classes have continued to increase in popularity, and Urban Kitchen’s South Pasadena space has reached full capacity. Within the next year, there are plans to open at least two more locations in order to accommodate people in other communities that want to enroll in cooking courses.
“I love the creativity of cooking and teaching others,” Hohman said. “If we at Urban Kitchen can get people to cook more at home as opposed to stopping at a fast food restaurant on the way home, then we’ve done our job. My favorite thing is when everybody sits down at the table to eat after they’re done cooking, and I overhear them connecting and bonding with each other. It’s very rewarding for me and that’s why I wanted to do this.”
Urban Kitchen is located at 1009 ½ Fair Oaks Ave. Its business hours are Mon. – Fri. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information call (626) 403-5633 or visit urbankitchen-la.com.
The Urban Kitchen Business Spotlight appeared in the print edition of the South Pasadena Review on 6.8.18.