Suburban cooking classes offer expert guidance on pizza, grilling

LISLE, Ill. (WLS) -- Just because the kids have all gone back to school, doesn't mean the adults have to stop their culinary education. There are a few grown-up cooking classes in the suburbs now, which appeal to both the professional pizza maker, as well as the recreational griller.

The lab work is hands-on. The professor, a stickler for details.

But the week-long class at the North American Pizza & Culinary Academy in Lisle isn't your typical cooking class. It's an accredited program from a well-regarded pizza school in Italy.

"I had so many people who were interested in doing that type of work, it was really obvious that we needed something - especially here in Chicago - where we could actually have professional pizza classes and training done," said the school's co-founder, Leo Spizzirri.

"Both in theory, where we're actually talking about dough chemistry and dough processes, as well as the actual process of making pizzas, making the dough, we're verifying that all of these things, they've absorbed them and that they've got competency," he added.

"What we're doing today with the students is I have all four types of mixer that you'd find in our industry and we're gonna make the same dough formula on each of the four machines. And then tomorrow, we'll bake those four doughs, so they can actually see the difference in the amount of stress put into the dough by the different machines, and they'll understand the amount of friction that goes into that dough and how the characteristics of that dough change," Spizzirri said.

Pizza making is so much more than following a recipe, adding some sauce and cheese and baking in an oven. The school is for serious wannabe pizzaiolos who want to start their own businesses. Spizzirri is the perfect teacher, since he's made thousands of pizzas in pretty much every type of oven.

From the ovens to the grills, the Weber Grill restaurant in Schaumburg now has a Grill Academy, offering several classes each week for the amateur griller.

"The three-season room we have here up until December 1. We'll be doing some other classes, combination with other demonstrations inside and we do classes three to four times a week," said Weber Grill Academy Instructor Klaus Lotter.

Classes are limited to 20 students, and each includes a three-course meal. A beginner class tackles skirt steak.

They even use woks set over grills, to cook strawberries, while butter-slathered pound cakes get grilled off over gas. The results are impressive, and easy, assuming people have the proper equipment at home. Lotter said you don't need to have a particular type of grill to learn from the classes.

"We do smoking classes, we do also combination cooking on our gas grills and charcoal grills," he said.

Now Weber offers about 15 different types of classes for their Grilling Academy, and they could be out here, depending on the weather, until December.

EXTRA COURSE: Weber Grilling Academy's smoking class
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Weber Grilling Academy offers a class just on smoking.

The North American Pizza & Culinary Academy

1970 University Ln., Lisle

Weber Grilling Academy
1010 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg

Other Good Cooking Classes:

The Kid's Table
2337 W. North Ave.

2864 N. Lincoln Ave.

The Chopping Block

Merchandise Mart

4747 N. Lincoln Ave.

The Wooden Spoon
5047 N. Clark St.

Cooking Fools
1916 W. North Ave.

Ranjana's Indian Cooking Classes
6730 S. Euclid Ave.
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