Get Cooking: Upgrade your kitchen skills at Jekyll Island Club Hotel

Stepping out of the dining room and into the professional kitchen at a landmark hotel may seem intimidating, but the chef instructors at Jekyll Island Club Hotel make the transition easy.

With an eye toward helping home cooks ramp up their skills while having fun, Jekyll Island Club Hotel hosts a cooking school at The Courtyard at Crane restaurant, located in the Historic Crane Cottage, which also houses participants throughout each session. “It provides a very homey atmosphere so participants feel as if they are part of the staff working on the property,” says Eric Wilson, assistant hotel manager.

“We close down one of our operating restaurants for the cooking school and classes are held in an actual working kitchen,” says Wilson. “Instruction is not a demonstration. All participants are hands-on, working alongside the chefs.”

Each interactive course is designed to provide adequate time to learn and refine new skills with kitchen time over three days, while also providing downtime to enjoy the Georgia coastal island resort. Sessions also include a wine tasting and meals featuring dishes prepared in class.

On Sunday evening, students mix and mingle with chefs during a kick-off dinner dance. Classes start Monday at 8 a.m. Two groups of ten to twelve students rotate through the kitchen, working at various workstations with chef instructors. “We break students into two groups,” says Executive Chef Abigail Hutchinson. “A baking group and a culinary group.” After lunch and again each day, the groups swap to ensure that all participants work with sweet and savory recipes.

The cooking school draws a range of students from novices to experienced cooks. “Participant-to-staff ratios are small enough that everyone receives plenty of hands-on training,” says Wilson.

New menus ensure repeat participants a fresh experience. “We do have people who come every year,” says Hutchinson. So she designs sessions around a mix of kitchen skills, such as “smoking, braising, knife skills, butchering” and so on, plus brings in “products that people wouldn’t usually go to the grocery store to buy.” Pre-arrival questionnaires help her design classes to address students’ needs and preferences.

“I’m quite proud of our cooking school and what it has turned into,” says Hutchinson. “Each year we add more and more.” In addition to skill-building experiences to last a lifetime, each student receives a welcome gift basket stuffed with a chef’s jacket, cookbook, bottle of wine and other goodies. At the end each graduate is presented with a class photo and diploma.

But perhaps the biggest thrill is what students take away: The chance to share what they learned with friends and family.

Jekyll Island Club Hotel’s cooking school is next scheduled January 29 through February 2, 2012. Cost is $1,595 per couple and $1,109 for an individual. To book a reservation or for more information, call 800-535-9547 or visit