Arts Center serves up culinary classes

If you've ever fantasized about going to culinary school, but didn't want to go through all the effort, time and expense, you now have an opportunity to satisfy your craving.

Amrita Raven Muehlgay, seasoned culinary arts instructor, honored graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York, trained chef and culinary artist, will teach professional level skills and techniques to the passionate home cook at Sedona Arts Center starting this month. This will be the first time that instruction in the culinary arts has officially been offered at SAC and there is a great deal of excitement about this new addition to the curriculum.

Amrita, who has been delighting others with her delicious food since she was a child, received her first professional training with two intensive years as a line cook alongside celebrity chef Bobby Flay at Mesa Grill in New York.

"It was the most challenging job I've ever had," says Amrita. "Imagine being in control of six sauté pans, a small grill full of food, and a convection oven filled with up to 10 separate items, while perfectly organizing, timing and plating a multitude of separate orders S quite frankly, I don't know how I did it! At the same time, it felt like it was about 120 degrees in the kitchen, and people were yelling to get the food out. If it weren't for Bobby's encouragement, and some inexplicable drive within me, I would have been out of there within the first month."

Her tenure at Mesa Grill gave Amrita invaluable agility, speed, organizational skills and professional fine-dining cooking experience. But she really yearned to refine her craft by attending culinary school. The head of admissions at the renowned French Culinary Institute (FCI) in New York recognized her unique talent and passion and offered her a rare, nearly full scholarship to its pastry program headed by famous pastry chef Jacques Torres, but she turned this opportunity down to attend their regular culinary arts program, which includes the pastry arts.

"It was one of the richest experiences of my life, and it was well worth 10 years of paying off student loans," recalls Amrita.

It was while she was at FCI that Amrita got the idea to teach cooking. "I have a master's in education and seven years of professional teaching experience, so it made perfect sense that I should combine my experience and love for teaching with my passion for the culinary arts," she says.

Amrita has worked as a private chef for a multimillionaire real estate developer and his family, cooked for some of New York's finest catering companies, was hired as executive chef, instructor and consultant to Jerome's original Red Rooster Café, and taught private culinary classes in Jerome, Prescott and Sedona.

For the last four years, she has been a server at Dahl and DiLuca's Cucina Rustica in the Village of Oak Creek.

Amrita will teach three culinary classes at Sedona Arts Center starting on Saturday, June 23, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with "The Lovely Lemon," a celebration of this versatile and lively fruit, with recipes like grilled artichokes with Meyer lemon aioli, and microgreen salad with fennel, oranges and olives in a lemon olive oil drizzle.

Join her on Saturday, July 21, for "A Fish Taco Fiesta," where this Mexican classic will be taken to new levels of flavor and fun with Mango Margaritas and Rustic Peach Pie with Toasted Pinon Crust and Cinnamon Ice Cream. And on Saturday, Aug. 18, as a lead-in to her Italian adventure, Amrita will share her recipes and techniques for making pasta, sauces and homemade cannoli in "La Cucina Italiana."

For further inquiries, call Sedona Arts Center at 282-2809.

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