Gourmet Gallery (254/399-0429 or gourmetgallerywaco.com) in Waco, TX, is a unique combination of a gourmet kitchen store and cooking school. Aspiring chefs of all kinds can shop for pots, glassware and cookbooks, or attend a variety of cooking classes — both demonstration and hands-on in a fully-equipped kitchen. We spoke with owner Karyn Miller about what kind of culinary experiences customers can enjoy in her store.
Fancy Food: What was the inspiration for you to open a facility that is not only a retail
store, but a cooking school as well?
Karyn Miller: I have loved cooking since I was a child. My mother was a home economics teacher (no, they don't have those anymore), so cooking was always a fun event in our home, whether it was for Sunday dinner or the holidays. While living in California, I visited a Sur la Table and fell in love with it. That's when I decided that I would like to have a business like that someday — a really comfortable place where people come to enjoy cooking, food and each other. The idea of cooking classes just seemed like the most natural way for bringing all of that together. It's a big part of our business.
FF: What are some of your most popular classes, and who teaches them?
KM: We have several classes that we repeat in some form or fashion. Initially, our homemade tamales classes were probably our most popular. Rachel Solano, our operations manager and one of our chefs, teaches that one. Our main in-house chef, Juanita Barrientos, teaches a Farm-to-Table class that fills up each time we offer it. Our Indian classes are really popular. I think people are just hungry for fun, different classes, different cultural experiences and unique forms of entertainment.
FF: What kind of items do you have for sale in the store, and what are the biggest
KM: Our retail sales include cookware, bakeware, cutlery, cooking gadgets and specialty foods like olive oils, vinegars, salts, seasonings, jams and jellies. We carry a small line of appliances, including coffee makers and grinders, some serving pieces and some kitchen giftware. We also have some specialty coffees and teas. Our biggest sellers? Rachel's Artisan bread (sold only on Fridays), 20-year aged balsamic from Italy, Shun knives (because I really love them), and lemon squeezers — yes, really.
FF: How do you decide which items to stock?
KM: We try to keep a step or two ahead of our customers, but often they are the ones keeping us up-to-date. We have some very loyal customers who refuse to buy their kitchen products elsewhere; they keep us abreast of what's new and different that they would like for us to carry, if we aren't already carrying it. We try to get to market regularly. We read up on the newest items and regularly scope out any other cooking stores we come across. We try to provide items that are used in our cooking classes. It always makes it even more fun for the class participants to be able to really put a new cooking utensil to practical use.
FF: I think your Crav Take Out Samplings — where anyone can come by for chefmade
take-out service — are a great idea. Who cooks these and what kind of food
KM: Crav is the brainchild of Chef Juanita Barrientos. The take-out food she cooks is healthier fare, and she changes her menu weekly. She is really a gifted chef and people love her food. Her degree in nutrition coupled with culinary arts certification makes her a huge asset to our business. Her menu includes a tuna salad and a chicken salad, a soup of some sort and two or three casseroles, always including at least one vegetarian or vegan choice. On Fridays, we couple her foods with a fresh salad and a loaf of Rachel's fresh artisan bread for "Dinner in a Bag."
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