Sharing love through food

Cooking classes in Troy ensure your date night is romantic – and delicious

Article by Todd Haight

Photography by Simran Bajwa (

Originally published in Troy City Lifestyle

After a few years, Date Night can get a little tired. Eating out? Again?

Spice it up by making a meal together at one of the private cooking classes around Troy.

Sur La Table (, for example, promises an immersive culinary experience with hands-on learning. You’re given the tools and ingredients, but before you panic, just know you’ll be guided by professionals such as Resident Chef Arra Joynt.

“It’s fun to watch people try a new dish for the first time,” she says. “Like homemade ice cream. You think it’s no big deal until you try it, and then it’s like opening a gift at Christmas. The best part is, you’ve made it yourself.”

On this day, she’s teaching the art of sushi to a dozen wishful chefs. Among them, a Troy law firm on a fun team outing and a local couple – financial planner Paul Dries ( and wife JoJo, who recently founded the nonprofit On The Wings of Angels ( Married 12 years ago on Valentine’s Day, Paul and JoJo are parents to Paulie, 10, and Lucas, 8.

Today they’re side by side, learning to make California rolls, spicy tuna rolls, vegetable hand rolls and sushi rice.

Chef Arra starts with an overview of the class and meal prep tools, encouraging students to interact with one another. “This is a great way to meet new people,” she says. “Many people make new friends and then come back for other classes together.”

After learning to cook the rice – “Don’t stir or wash it,” cautions Chef Arra – students move on to shredding vegetables and creating the perfect balance between rice and toppings. Chef Arra is hands-on, first demonstrating a skill – such as cutting vegetables uniformly, called batonnetting – and then working with each student to master the move.

“We're loving this,” says Paul. “This is such a great date night idea. We love sushi but didn’t realize everything that goes into it.”

JoJo adds, “We've learned a lot, like how to cut vegetables by rolling the knife, not chopping it, and how to handle the rice delicately so you can roll it correctly.”

Savoring the final product – a spicy tuna roll he and JoJo created – Paul says, “This is a very romantic thing to do as a couple.”

If you’re a novice, or perhaps a chef-in-the-making, you can learn from the best at a host of cooking lessons offered in the Troy area:

Cucina Lab Torino ( is led by Elisabetta Balzola of Torino, Italy. You’ll master the art of cooking with wine and create authentic Italian dishes such as pasta sauce and gnocchi.

Fresh Chef Detroit ( offers individual and group classes in your home or office. Chef Kirsten will create a class tailored to your interests.

Mirepoix Cooking School ( teaches you to think and cook like a professional chef. This hands-on cooking experience lets you interact with the ingredients and do the prep work yourself.

Private Cooking Instruction ( is designed by Chef Carolyn, who creates a personalized menu that will be prepared by you, guided by her expert hands – right in your own home.

Breaking the Mold with Chef Lauren ( customizes lessons for each client, with classes that include pasta, cake decorating, pastries and meal prepping. Classes for children available.

"It's a great way to make friends. We met some wonderful people. You can feel the camaraderie as you share tips and compare how you're preparing the food." – Paul Dries

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