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Draeger’s to reopen culinary school July 6 with expanded repertoire

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In partnership with SF Weekly

You wouldn’t expect to have “a quick jaunt to the south of France” on your grocery list, but at Draeger’s that’s just an average shopping trip. The good news is that soon, you can join them.

The high-end grocery store will reopen its culinary school on July 6 with an expanded repertoire: comprehensive cooking classes, demonstrations by local chefs, food photography, plating techniques and zero-waste kitchen methods, to name a few. Each lesson will feature ingredients sourced by suppliers at Draeger’s, renowned for its eye for quality, with instructors from all over the world of gastronomy.

For Antoine Kaufman, the director of Draeger’s culinary school, the classes are a natural continuation of the store’s philosophy: a global perspective on food for the home.

“Food makes you travel; it can be a geographical travel, but it’s also an inner travel. When you taste something, it’s like looking at a painting: it can provoke the same sensations within yourself,” said Kaufman. “All sorts of emotions start to happen when you cook. The transition between cooking for people and teaching people how to cook is giving the students the ability to convey these emotions unto others.”

Antoine Kaufman, Draeger’s culinary school director, is dedicated to bringing European-style dining into the American home. / Photo courtesy Draeger’s.

Kaufman approaches cooking not just as a means to an end, but as a totally enriching experience. As a young chef, he found that a large part of what inspired his love of culinary arts was how his cooking encouraged people to grow.

“Translating, adapting and sharing knowledge can be cross-cultural,” said Kaufman. “What I noticed is that for people who weren’t as well traveled, cooking them food was like a piece of (another country) that I could offer them on a plate.”

Richard Draeger, COO of the grocery store, is the great-grandson of founder Gustave Draeger. The family has been dedicated to what they call “culinary solutions” ever since the company opened their first deli in San Francisco in 1925 – bridging the gap between restaurant-quality food and home-cooked food in the Bay Area.

Not only is the class in keeping with the way Draeger’s pursues their products – “We look to small producers and artisans from around the world, but only the best regions of the world for that particular product,” Draeger said – but it will introduce students to the importance of cooking as a way to connect with others.

After months of isolation, followed by awkward face-to-face moments with friends and colleagues, people are starving for genuine connection. For Kaufman, food is the perfect place to start.

“The kitchen is, to me, the most important place in a family home, because this is where everybody can gather, everybody has an opinion, everybody can have a task.” he said. “It’s beautiful to work as a group. There is a sense of family and there is also a sense of pride.”

Richard Draeger: “Our customers are very much about finding things that are extraordinary. It’s a clientele that really values flavor above all else.” / Photo courtesy Draeger’s

Draeger and Kaufman agree that the heart of a good meal are the people you share it with. Americans, Draeger observed, have not always been the best at practicing this – therefore, part of what the classes will emphasize is the importance of imbuing food with the same esteem that students hold for their relationships with loved ones, including pets.

Classes will cover cooking sustainably for every type of home you can think of: nuclear families, a house filled with roommates, even a studio with just a person and a dog.

Regardless of what your family looks like, a Draeger’s cook is someone who appreciates the power of food, Draeger said.

“Our customers are very much about finding things that are extraordinary. It’s a clientele that really values flavor above all else,” said Draeger. “They view food as being the reason for folks wanting to join together to celebrate life.”

Class registration will begin on June 1 at www.draegerscookingschool.com.

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