Angela Hardgrave What’s the last thing you’d expect to do at an appliance store on a Tuesday night? If you answered, “ eat a perfectly cooked steak prepared by a local chef,” well, chances are that I would have agreed with you...until recently. I had the pleasure of being a willing student at a cooking class hosted by blogger and Wall Street Journal best-selling author Stacey Little, held in the demonstration kitchen of the beautiful AllSouth Appliance showroom.
When I walked into the showroom, it was more party than classroom. Wine, tablecloths, roses—the Valentine’s Day theme was evident. The room was full of students, and Little greeted each one, creating a fun, lighthearted, family-like atmosphere. Little walked the class through all the steps of creating an impressive meal, in an amazingly short amount of time, all while throwing out useful kitchen tips and conveying his passion for“ getting folks back to the table for dinner.” With a little help from his students, the whole class enjoyed cast iron strip steak with Gorgonzola compound butter; a spring mix salad with strawberries, goat cheese and roasted pecans; oven-roasted potatoes, asparagus and green beans; and garlic bread. And of course, keeping with the Valentine’s Day theme, there had to be chocolate—a homemade brownie topped with chocolate ganache.
Little said the inspiration for his classes came from years of people requesting that he do just that. He said, “ Folks have been asking for years for me to host some type of cooking class, but I’ve been hesitant, being that I don’t have any formal training. What I realized is that folks actually find my cooking style more approachable being that I don’t. Ultimately, my goal is to get folks back to the table, and my classes help to show those that think they can’t cook, that they actually can.” His classes are as varied as the people that attend. He has several repeat customers, everyone from an area oncology radiologist to a classroom teacher. There is even one personwho drives from Columbus, Mississippi to attend! Little said, “ We’ve done weeknight meal themes to give people easy ideas for busy weeknight meals. We’ve done breakfast for dinner, teaching people how to make homemade biscuits, quiche and sausage gravy. One lady told me her husband fell in love with her all over again after she learned to make homemade biscuits in my class! We’ve also done a holiday-themed class to show folks how to make simple and easy appetizers and holiday treats and sweets.”
Although teaching others to prepare great food is important to Little, what is even more important is family. The meal itself is secondary to the connections made over those meals. He believes, “ We always return home a little different than we left that morning, and family dinners are a great time to reconnect.” His cookbook, The Southern Bite Cookbook (Thomas Nelson: March 2014) and his blog, www.southernbite.com are full of recipes that make getting a meal on the table easier, allowing families to spend more time together. Food and family are such an integral part of Southern culture, from parties to family reunions to funerals. Little’s Southern roots run deep. He grew up in the South, learning to cook from his mom and grandmother and now lives in central Alabama with his wife, little boy and his “ collection of cast iron skillets.”
Little is not just a local celebrity. Southern Living Magazine named Little one of the top 30 bloggers to be following for two consecutive years. He has appeared on The Today Show and Fox and Friends and has worked with Betty Crocker, GE, White Lily, Martha White, Kraft and even Queen Latifah. Following the success of his first cookbook, The Southern Bite Cookbook, there is currently a second in the works, focusing mainly on quick and easy family dinners.
For information on upcoming classes, where to buy his book, recipes, videos and tips, visit Stacey Little’s blog or find him on Facebook. You and your family will be glad you did.