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Summer is an ideal time to learn a new skill. School is out, days are longer and energy levels are high. Thanks to the rich culture and diversity of this unique city, Evanstonians young and old can take a class in just about anything, from jewelry-making to scuba diving.

This article is one in a summer-long series titled “Where to Learn …” This week the RoundTable focuses on where to learn to cook.

Now We’re Cookin’
            1601 Payne St., Suite C

After a long and diverse corporate career, Evanston resident Nell Funk decided it was about time she followed her heart and her passion for cooking. A life-long home cook, Ms. Funk enrolled at the Culinary School at Kendall College and was inspired to open her own catering business. It was during this time that she envisioned the Culinary Service Center, a space that would offer rentable commercial kitchens for start-up culinary businesses alongside a state-of-the-art demonstration studio for classes and events.

Her vision became reality in 2007, when she combined her savvy business sense with her newly honed culinary skills and opened Now We’re Cookin’. The 5,000-square-foot space includes a fully equipped professional culinary studio for interactive cooking classes, rentable commercial kitchens and a conference/dining room equipped with a 10-foot-long harvest table for meetings and eatings.

A wide range of classes is taught throughout the week and led by award-winning chefs, one of whom is Chef Mary McMahon, a Jean Banchet winner for Best Pastry Chef. Chef Mary is well known for her positions held at Italian Village restaurants and Trio Atelier in Evanston.

Classes are casual and fun and intended for cooks of all levels and ages. Students can learn everything from how to create exquisite dinner-party fare to their favorite flavor of ice cream. Theme nights such as “Girls’ Night Out: Eat, Pray, Love,” “OK Eat!” and “Date Night: Hawaiian Luau” are popular events, says Ms. Funk. All classes require pre-registration.

“For those who enjoy good food as much as we do, Now We’re Cookin’ is the perfect place for classes or celebrations,” says Ms. Funk. “Come cook with us and have fun with new ideas, new skills and new friends!”

Ms. Funk and Now We’re Cookin’ staff can also be found most Saturday mornings at the Evanston Farmers’ Market performing free cooking demonstrations using seasonal market products.

For a calendar of classes or to learn more about corporate events and kitchen rental options go to

Whole Foods Market
           1640 Chicago Ave.

Whole Foods Market in downtown Evanston
offers hands-on cooking classes, tastings, demonstration dinners and workshops led by in-store experts throughout the year.

A fully equipped professional kitchen located on the second floor provides an ideal and convenient venue for classes.

“People trust Whole Foods as a natural and organic food vendor,” says Director of Marketing Carieann Sommers. “Students can learn to cook or bake something, then go directly downstairs with the list of ingredients
and shop.”

Classes are offered about once a week (fewer in the summer) and cost between $5 and $20, depending on the supplies needed. Free classes are occasionally available. Class topics range from “Cooking with Food Allergies”
to “Cooking with Beer.”

“The Cookie Monsters class is one of the most popular,” says Ms. Sommers. “We offer it every third Wednesday of the month, and children aged 4-12 can participate in this fun, hands-on cookie class.”

This year, Whole Foods has partnered with the Evanston Public Library to offer a program called “Book It and Cook It!” for students in grades 7-12.

“We meet in the kitchen at Whole Foods, cook a meal inspired by a book we’ve read, and discuss the book while we’re cooking and eating,” says Christie Chandler-Stahl of the Evanston Public Library, who runs the program with Whole Foods’ culinary coordinator, Buffy Feinstein.

The next “Book It and Cook It!” class will be held Aug. 11, 5-7 p.m. The book to be discussed is the young adult version of Michael Pollan’s The “Omnivore
Dilemma.” Teens can register at

For a calendar of Whole Foods classes go to