Oaxaca Cooking School

There are several places for cooking classes in Oaxaca. We looked at the options and decided that La Casa de los Sabores sounded like a good fit for our interests. It was a good choice.

Pilar Cabrera has been teaching traditional Oaxacan cooking for ten years, a passion that grew from her seventeen years as chef/owner of La Olla restaurant in the historic center of Oaxaca.

Pilar met us shortly after breakfast and discussed the menu for the day. We would make quesadillas with fresh squash blossom flowers, epazote and oaxaca quesillo (what we know as oaxaca string cheese), a fresh salsa made in a molcajete with chile de agua (unique to Oaxaca), followed by a mole negro over chicken and rice hierba buena, finished with a rose petal sorbet. So soon after breakfast and I’m getting hungry.

She explained that we would shop at Mercado La Merced, since it was her favorite market, not too touristy and with plenty of quality meat, produce, flowers and accessories. We spent a wonderful hour walking through the market, stopping at several stalls, examining their products and watching her banter with the vendors. She took her time explaining why she chose certain vendors and asked us to smell and examine all of the different products she purchased. I walked by more than one food stall where I could have had breakfast and returned for lunch.

The selection of fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers, chickens, meat, herbs, masa, dried chiles, and, and, OMG, it was a bit overwhelming for a fan of all of those things. Where do I start? Where do I stop?

Heirloom tomatoes, chapulines, mantequilla avocados, artesanal chocolate for mole, OK, I’ll stop.

Back at the B&B where the kitchen has enough room for all four students, Pilar and her assistants, the purchases are separated into baskets for each menu item. We are actually going to make mole negro, tortillas, and . . . well, everything from scratch.

Each student had a task, every step was explained, Pilar was very hands on with every step of each recipe. Everyone was kept busy with chopping, blending, frying, roasting, grinding, and learning. She is a patient, calm, generous teacher, who shares her enthusiasm and love for Oaxacan cuisine.

After each dish was prepared, it was time for a mescal toast with a short explanation of how mezcal has become as sophisticated as the best tequilas and how the drink is uniquely Oaxacan. Then we sat down to a perfectly satisfying meal. It came from a kitchen full of love and laughter, and it was obvious with every bite.

Classes are Tuesdays and Thursdays, begin at 9:30 and finish around 2:00 pm. Current cost is $70 usd. Reserve by email: sarah_js86@hotmail.com