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Learn to cook from one of Charlotte's Top 5 Chefs | Cook local, healthy and sustainable food with Chef Alyssa Gorelick

January 10th, 2015
Contributed by Dan Burdi
Resident Real Estate Agent and Community Enthusiast

The start of any new year inevitably brings ambitions to better yourself with New Year’s resolutions. Many struggle with their resolutions because it’s difficult to know how or where to get started. However, if your resolution has anything to do with cooking for yourself, eating healthier, or using locally sourced ingredients, Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen may be just what you need to step into 2015 on the right foot.

Founded in 2012 by Chef Alyssa Gorelick and her business partner, Andrew Wilen, Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen features culinary classes focused on cooking and eating healthy and using local, sustainable food to do it. I first had the opportunity to meet Alyssa at her learning kitchen in the Atherton Mill Market in South End on Small Business Saturday. We followed up our initial meeting a week or so later at Craft Growler Shop where I had the opportunity to meet her boyfriend and business partner, Andrew. Within a few minutes (a.k.a a glass of delicious local beer) it was easy to see how these two had collaborated as both chef and event planner to create an awesome local business here in Charlotte.

Chef Alyssa has had a passion for food and cooking her entire life. After Alyssa graduated from the Art Institute of Charlotte in 2005 she had the opportunity to work in several restaurants in Charlotte and around the world. In 2011 Alyssa was given the opportunity to become the Executive Chef of Fern, Flavors from the Garden in Plaza Midwood. Alyssa’s experience opening Fern led her to explore the opportunities that existed with local farmers to source healthy and local ingredients. Beyond opening Fern as an Executive Chef, some of Alyssa’s other accomplishments include being named one of Charlotte’s Top 5 Chefs by CBS Charlotte as well as the opportunity to cook at James Beard House in New York City on two separate occasions.

In the Fall of 2011 Chef Alyssa met and began dating event planner and business partner Andrew Wilen. Andrew graduated from Elon University in 2008 where he studied Communications, Sport Marketing and Business Management. With Andrew’s background as an event planner working with the Carolina Panthers, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Denver, New York, Houston and Dallas, and with the Chicago Marathon, it was natural for him to work with Alyssa to combine their skills to found Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen in December of 2012.

Today, with two years under their belt running Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen, Alyssa and Andrew have a passion for providing Charlotte with a social and energetic environment where people can learn how to cook and eat healthier with local ingredients. “A cooking class offers a new and exciting alternative to what would be an otherwise traditional night out with friends in Charlotte”, says Alyssa. We here at Crown Town Living couldn’t help but agree so when January 8th rolled around we met again with Alyssa and Andrew for their Basic Meals Boot Camp.

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Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen is located at the back of Atherton Market in South End where Chef Alyssa, her partner Andrew and their staff setup several workstations for those attending their classes. A video camera is setup as well so that Alyssa’s demonstrations can be projected onto a large screen.

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The Atherton Market location offers plenty of parking and, seeing as the classes are BYOB, The Vin Master right next door makes snagging a great wine to pair with the night’s menu very easy.

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Before class kicks off, Chef Alyssa puts together a quick appetizer to hold everyone over until their meals are prepared. For the class we went to, Alyssa prepared a delicious crostini with goat cheese, chopped walnuts, caramelized onions and orange zest. Delicious!

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The first course we prepared was pickled shrimp. I certainly wasn’t familiar with pickled shrimp before this class but will not forget them any time soon! Pickled shrimp is a great alternative to the traditional shrimp cocktail and the pickling spice we used from the Savory Spice Shop located right within the Atherton Mill area made this appetizer course something I’ll be giving another shot on my own in the future.

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After each of Alyssa’s quick demonstrations she made the rounds to each of the workstations to give some individualized attention. Whether it was general advice on how to prepare something or some extra help with knife skills, Alyssa was very patient and informative throughout the entire class.

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Our second course was a chicken and sausage jambalaya. All of the meats were procured from local farms that distribute at Atherton Market which is great since I know I can find the high quality ingredients we were using again without too much trouble. A few more spices from the Savory Spice shop went into the jambalaya, the smoked paprika and cayenne pepper being my personal favorites!

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The third and final course that we prepared was a dessert composed of crème anglaise atop some fresh strawberries. This was another one of those dishes that I had never heard of before but won’t be forgetting any time soon. Although it looked simple, creating this dish required a lot of new techniques that Chef Alyssa made look super-easy. Having some instruction was very helpful throughout the preparation.

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After all of the dishes were prepared, everyone plated their meals and gathered at long picnic tables at the front of Atherton Market to enjoy the result of their hard work. The jambalaya was delicious and the crème anglaise was a great conclusion to the evening.

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The overall experience with Alyssa and Andrew at Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen was fantastic. A cooking class is a great break from the usual date-night or hangout spots here in Charlotte and a great opportunity to meet like-minded people looking to learn and experience something new. There are several upcoming classes that you can attend at Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen to see exactly what I mean. Additionally, Andrew explained that private class events for birthday parties, schools, small groups or corporate events are popular as well. One of the events that Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen does for larger private groups is an Iron Chef-type of experience where individuals compete to prepare the best dish. I can see this being a lot of fun!

For additional details regarding upcoming classes and to signup for a class, visit ChefAlyssasKitchen.com.

Some upcoming classes include Paleo Cooking 2 on January 16th for the health conscious among you, and Try Thai 2 on January 22nd where attendees will learn how to make some of the signature dishes of this increasingly popular ethnic cuisine.

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Thank you to Chef Alyssa and Andrew for the opportunity to try something new and entertaining here in Charlotte! We look forward to following them on Twitter (@ChefAlyssaCLT) as they grow their business.