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Dining Out: Eating the class project at Chez Cherie

Open just one or two nights a week, Chez Cherie cooks on all burners.

August 02, 2013|By Lisa Dupuy
  • Chez Cherie owner Cherie Twohy in the kitchen of her business on the 1400 block of Foothill Boulevard in La Cañada Flintridge on Friday, August 2, 2013. Twohy has taught cooking classes at this location for 13 years.
Chez Cherie owner Cherie Twohy in the kitchen of her business… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

Perhaps, like me, you've passed the cute, ivy-covered bistro-looking place with the Chez Cherie sign on Foothill Boulevard in La Cañada Flintridge and wondered, "Why is this never open? Where are the diners?"

Well, I'm here to tell you, on Tuesday nights, there are diners. Happy, well-fed, well-informed diners. That's because 12 or so lucky people are eating the class project, the result of their participation in a cooking demonstration led by chef and entertainer extraordinaire, Cherie Mercer Twohy.

Chef Cherie is a master of her craft, joining the ranks of Jacques Pepin and Julia Child as a Certified Culinary Professional, but she is also hilariously down to Earth, peppering her demonstrations with funny stories, scandalous asides and dozens of handy shortcuts. Though she's a big proponent of seasonal fare from local farmers markets, Cherie is not above shopping at Costco, Super King and her beloved Trader Joe's. In fact, she's the author of a popular series of cookbooks using ingredients from TJ's. She sells the books, as well as other hard-to-find culinary products, at the school (typically open on Tuesdays, but call any time). Overall, her philosophy is "make good food, simply" so you have more time to enjoy company, conversation and wine.

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Speaking of wine, if it's your first time in class, one glass of wine is complimentary. Repeat visitors, of which there are many, know to bring a bottle of their own. "Chief Ambience Officer" Steve, who happens to be Cherie's husband, assists by placing stools on which to rest your glass while taking notes during the demonstration. The kitchen itself is not industrial, but more like a Tuscan kitchen in a swanky home. An overhead mirror and two monitors make it easy to see the action.

The evening I attended, Cherie and her assistant created no less than six delicious dishes. Watching them make a summer squash and tomato tart, I came to no longer fear puff pastry. The tart was done two ways: a complex basket weave design for "Type-A cooks to serve when Prince William, Katherine and the new baby come over" and a more free-form, conceptual design Cherie slyly describes as "rustic" or "artisan." Both came out of the oven looking gorgeous.

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