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Montclair Culinary Academy: Creating Connections + Chefs in Montclair

by Kristina Helfer
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If you’re looking to improve your cooking skills or for a new way to connect with friends old and new, the Montclair Culinary Academy offers hands-on classes for adults and children that bring our community together around the table. From the seasoned chef to the very beginners, there is something for everyone to learn.  We have everything you need to know about this fun place. Read on to learn more about Montclair Culinary Academy and its classes.

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The Start 

The Montclair Culinary Academy in Upper Montclair was founded by Chef Karan Fischer and is located in an 1899 Victorian-era home, one of the last of its kind in the area to house a business. 

After a long career in Los Angeles in the film and television industry, Karan moved back to her childhood area of Queens to help her ailing parents. With no direction, a career coach encouraged her to check out the culinary schools in New York City because of her expressed passion for food.

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Karan’s passion for food began at an early age. Her family had survived the Holocaust and came together every Sunday for a family meal. The men would grill while the women cooked in the kitchen. It was this sense of togetherness and community around the table that inspired her.

She attended the Institute of Culinary Education, graduating in 2009. After graduation, she wasn’t sure what to do but then was hired by a number of different fine-dining restaurants and catering companies, jump-starting her career in the culinary field. The jobs didn’t feel like a fit though.

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A friend who was a nutritionist reached out to Karan, expressing her need for a private chef to work with her clients. Karan would go into the clients’ homes and prepare food for them for the week – typically lunch and dinners for each day. During that time, she also attended NYU-Langone and took a nutrition course which taught her how different foods have different effects on mental and physical health.

Read More: A Guide to Food Trucks in Montclair

When her time with the nutritionist was coming to an end, the clients expressed how much they’d miss her. While Karan had provided them with food that helped them live healthier lives, they had not learned how to prepare it themselves.

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Karan then began teaching cooking classes at Rustico Cooking in New York City. She was inspired by her work there but wanted to tackle cooking classes differently. Karan wanted to really teach people to cook rather than just how to tackle a recipe. 

The knowledge she gained from these experiences has carried her into Montclair Culinary Academy. MCA strives to provide its students with a greater understanding of cuisines from around the world with an emphasis on farm-to-table products. It connects the people to the earth and to each other. The hands-on approach gives the attendees the tools and confidence to take what they learned at MCA and use it at home.

The Classes + Events

MCA’s class offerings range from sushi making to Southern specialties to bread baking and include classes for both children and adults. The classes teach healthy and delicious cooking habits and restaurant secrets normally kept in the back-of-house. 

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Chef Karan prepares appetizers for the class (included in the class price) and is there every step of the way to make sure participants not only prepare a beautiful meal for themselves and the group but also learn something new. 

See More: The Best Hot Chocolate Spots in Montclair to Stay Warm

The team at MCA wants everyone who comes to have a good time but to also take something home whether it’s a knife skill, how to sauté, or how to cut an onion without crying. It also encourages attendees to try something new or something they may have thought they did not enjoy, opening palettes and minds.

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There is one large, communal table in the front of the space for attendees to dine at after they’ve finished cooking. MCA has created a communal environment to encourage collaboration and socialization. 

MCA hosts private workshops, corporate events, team building, and private parties such as birthdays or anniversaries. All classes and events are BYOB and the staff is able to bartend, as well as wait on the table and assist during classes.

The Pandemic Effect

Due to Covid, classes are a bit smaller than they were before. The classes used to be able to host about 16 people and are now 12 to a class. MCA requires that all adults and children 12 or older show proof of vaccination prior to any class, private event, or corporate event.

For many, the pandemic isolated us and eliminated our ability to socialize. MCA is bringing back the social part of eating and food by creating a space for people to cook and enjoy together. Karan says, “People come to a class as strangers and leave friends.”

For more information on Montclair Culinary Academy, follow it on Instagram @montclairculinary and sign-up for classes here.

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