To liven up your kitchen, take a class

Copper Pot Cooking Studio open house is March 6

click to enlarge Ben, left, and Norah Perry with their mom, Chef Denise Perry. Her new cooking school features classes for children, as well as for adults.
Ben, left, and Norah Perry with their mom, Chef Denise Perry. Her new cooking school features classes for children, as well as for adults.
Ben, left, and Norah Perry with their mom, Chef Denise Perry. Her new cooking school features classes for children, as well as for adults.
In the process of going through my mother’s things after her death a month ago, a thought kept popping into my head: “I am nowhere near as interesting as my parents are.” That was until my father reminded me that, when my late mother had a feisty three-year-old of her own, even she did not create elaborate culinary masterpieces every weeknight. Still, I look through my mother’s collection of spices and exotic ingredients, and her large collection of cookbooks, with a great deal of longing. The reality is, “chef” though I am, I work full time and am the lead parent in our home (my husband drives a truck and is gone during the week). We eat well in our house, to be sure, and I dutifully plan meals and cook ahead (most of the time). But honestly, even for me, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut.

Sometimes we need a little jolt to liven up the kitchen routine, and Chef Denise Perry is looking to help Springfieldians do just that, with her Copper Pot Cooking Studio. Beginning this month, Copper Pot will offer classes for adults and children, as well as a preschool “story and snack” series. Copper Pot began as a pop-up concept in June of 2015 when Perry began serving artisanal wood-fired pizzas out at Danenberger Vineyards on weekends.

Perry, who has been on the faculty of the Lincoln Land Community College culinary arts program since 2006, attended culinary school at the Seattle Culinary Academy, where she embraced the ideas of sustainability and local food systems, and developed a deep appreciation for both regional and international foods. The influence of the food culture and style of the Pacific Northwest shines through in Perry’s cooking. The menus are rich with Asian and Latin flavors, but also touch on classic dishes, such as Salmon Baked in Parchment and Traditional Bolognese with Fresh Egg Noodles. Sourcing the most seasonal, local ingredients is a high priority at Copper Pot. Ingredients used in the classes will be sourced from local farms around Springfield, including Oak Tree Organics and Willow City Farm.

After graduating from culinary school, Perry embarked on her chef career and began to cook her way through the fine dining scenes of Seattle and Chicago. It was during this time that her gift as a teacher began to shine through. “I worked at a restaurant in Seattle called Szmania’s that had an open plan kitchen and I loved the interaction with the guests and talking to them about what I was working on.”

Eventually Perry was hired to develop the culinary program at Robert Morris College’s Aurora Campus. Family brought her back home to Springfield, where she found a home on the teaching staff of the Lincoln Land Culinary Program. In addition to teaching students in the culinary arts students program, Perry ran several of the kids’ culinary classes and camps. Indeed, the extensive selection of children’s programming is a distinguishing characteristic of Copper Pot.

Copper Pot’s inaugural season of adult classes will include Spring Desserts with Lavender Shortbread and Cocoa Meringues, and Mexican Tamales, wherein each participant will take home tamales for the freezer. In addition to repertoire-expanding classes such as these, Perry will also offer classes teaching fundamental kitchen skills to both novice and experienced home cooks, including Knife Skills Basics, and Using a Pressure Cooker.

Kids’ classes feature themes like Sushi, Tacos, Pizza and Homemade Pickles. Additionally, Perry is offering a preschool “snack and story” program 9:30-11 a.m Wednesdays. There youngsters and their grownups will prepare a themed snack, topped off with a story. Older children, aged 6-12, can sign up for “cookie Fridays,” where they will learn basic mixing and measuring skills and will get to take home their baked cookies for a weekend treat.

In addition to its classes and programs, Copper Pot Cooking Studio will be available for private events such as parties, meetings and corporate team-building sessions.

As if the variety of classes weren’t enough to keep her busy, Chef Perry has more plans in the works. Copper Pot will hold a pop-up bakery called Cook It Up (“my nieces came up with the name”) on the last Sunday of every month. The bakery is a joint effort between with Perry and her sister and will debut on Easter weekend with hot cross buns, cookies and other treats. Eventually Perry is also planning to hold one-hour noontime classes, which will feature a quick-fire demonstration class followed by lunch.

Copper Pot Cooking School, at 916 W. Laurel, will be holding an open house Saturday, March 6, 1-4 p.m. and will begin to offer adult classes and kid programs early this month. Adult classes will be held on Wednesdays and Fridays 6:30-8:30 p.m. The cost is $30 per class. Kids’ classes are held on Wednesdays 4-6:30 p.m. and cost $20. Preschool Snack and Story sessions will occur on Wednesdays from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m and cost $12.

To sate us in the meantime, Perry has graciously shared her family recipe for Beef Rouladen, a classic braised German beef dish. Register at

This recipe was one of our favorites that my Mom would prepare (actually the dinner that was served the night I was born). Have your local butcher slice your meat to order about ¼-inch thick. –Denise Perry
Serves 6-8

• 12 slices boneless beef chuck pounded 1/8-inch thick
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 3/4 cup German whole-grain mustard
• 6 slices bacon, halved crosswise
• 3 whole dill pickles, quartered lengthwise
• 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
• Toothpicks or twine, for securing
• 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
• 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
• 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
• 1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
• 1/3 cup dry red wine
• 2 cups beef stock
• 1 bay leaf
• 3 tbsp. flour
• Boiled potatoes or egg noodles for serving

Season beef with salt and pepper. Working with one slice at a time, spread 1 tbsp. mustard over surface. Lay 1 piece bacon, 1 pickle spear, and about 5 slices onion across one narrow end; roll into a tight package and secure with toothpicks. Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook beef rolls, turning as needed, until browned, 12-14 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add remaining onion, the garlic, carrot and celery to pan; cook until soft, 6-8 minutes. Add wine; cook until almost evaporated, 1-2 minutes. Stir in stock and bay leaf and return beef rolls to pan; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, slightly covered, until beef is tender, 1 hour.

Transfer beef rolls to a platter; discard toothpicks. Strain stock into a bowl. Add remaining butter to pan; melt over medium-high. Add flour; cook 2 minutes. Whisk in stock and cook until thickened, 4-5 minutes; pour over beef rolls. Garnish with parsley; serve with potatoes and sauerkraut, if you like.

Ashley Meyer of Springfield, daughter of the late Julianne Glatz who wrote this food column for the past 10 years, is a chef with experience as a caterer and restaurant owner. She is the executive chef and Eat Real Educator at genHkids and mother of a three-year-old daughter.

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