Instead of sleeping in last Saturday morning, I found myself sitting at a long table discussing the menu for the day. First, Hagrid's Stew had to be prepped for a two hour stay in the oven. Then onto Snape's Scones, Butterbeer, and the Cockroach Clusters; the list went on, and I realized it was going to be a busy day.

I'd stepped into Chef Loren Banco's Harry Potter Kitchen Wizardry Class ready for three hours of Muggle-free and Butterbeer-full good times. Sure, I'm not exactly the target audience (11-14), but sometimes I just need a break from the Muggle folks at Serious Eats, you know?

I entered the class, held at the Institute of Culinary Education, feeling a bit nervous. I mean, to the kids there I'm just another adult. Surprisingly, some of the seven kids attending that day's class hadn't read the books, or even seen the movies—I'm a bigger Harry Potter lover than they were, even though I'm not a huge fanatic.

Chef Loren got right to business, explaining all the recipes, and then it was onto the cooking stations.

Cockroach clusters and Butterbeer, after the jump.

Hagrid's Stew


The stew and the ice cream were the first tasks at hand. Of course, everyone wanted to work on the ice cream, so a count-off was required to divide the kids into the two groups. The funny thing is, I don't think they'd ever counted off before. It went something like this:

Kid A: 1.
Kid B: ...
Chef: Now you say two.
Kid B: ... 2.
Chef: Okay, you're two.
Kid C: ...

After that minor struggle, things went a bit more smoothly. The beef stew was a simple preparation that smelled wonderful as it cooked in the oven throughout the class. Hearty and filling, it didn't quite mesh with the hot weather outside, but inside an air-conditioned kitchen it was very nice.

Snape's Scones


These baked goods aren't nearly as nefarious as their name might suggest; M&Ms made them quite cheery, real kid-pleasers.

Stoat Sandwiches


Ham and cheese sandwiches pan-fried in copious amounts of butter? The kids absolutely loved these, ranking them up there with their other favorite, the ice cream in the butterbeer. Taking turns, they each flipped a couple of sandwiches, clearly loving the power in deciding when one was ready to flip.



Shockingly, butterbeer in our universe is nothing more than a root beer float with homemade butterscotch ice cream. Who knew? The ice cream was a huge hit, and I'll testify to its incredibly creamy, rich flavor. It's definitely a good thing these kids can still eat whatever they want. While scooping out the ice cream, they actually debated whether or not to add two scoops to each float, but, in an impressive act of willpower, resisted. Sadly, there was no adult version of butterbeer available, but I know it'd be great with some rum.

Pumpkin Shakes


Blending together the banana, pumpkin, milk, and ice cream with an immersion blender proved to be very "cool," and I'll admit it: I was also impressed with the outlets hanging from the ceiling, one of the perks of a professional kitchen.

Cockroach Clusters


This was a smorgasbord of things kids love to eat. Chips, chocolate, peanuts, M&Ms, and pretzels all mixed together and doled out on parchment paper to chill and set. No one asked where the cockroaches were.

Magic Wands


More of a craft activity, the designing of each breadstick wand was a very serious business. To drizzle or not to drizzle? Chocolate or rainbow sprinkles? Milk or white chocolate? A mini-discussion also broke out about the benefits of dark chocolate, leaving me with a smile. I was a little sad that no one started incanting spells like densaugeo (to cause the teeth of the recipient to grow at an alarming rate), langlock (to glue the victim's tongue to the roof of their mouth), and the like. C'mon, where are the Harry Potter fanatics?

I shouldn't have been surprised that the emphasis here is on cooking rather than Harry Potter. Chef Loren demonstrated how to properly cut an onion for the stew (something even I still haven't mastered), and along with his two assistants Gaby and Niza, patrolled the kitchen assisting and stepping in whenever needed. The kids in the class ranged in age, cooking experience, and love of Harry Potter, but they all loved engaging with the ingredients, techniques, and making of the dishes. Everyone shared beautifully (bravo, parents) and even when someone cut themself, there was no fuss. It was certainly refreshing to see how those of a younger age treat the kitchen and the magic of creating dishes.

When Chef Loren cut open a pint of ice cream instead of scooping the whole thing out, the kids went crazy. (I now know how to really impress my nephew next weekend.) There's a sense of wonder, amazement, and just plain old fun. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

The Class

Chef Loren Banco developed the Harry Potter class himself and started teaching it in 2006. At $95 for a three hour session, this makes for an excellent birthday or other special occasion treat. The Harry Potter Kitchen Wizardry class is offered once or twice a season; the next session is October 24th from 6 to 9 p.m. Chef Loren' other kid-focused classes center around subjects as varied as cupcakes, street fair food, pizza, and science in the kitchen. If you're so inclined, he also teaches adult classes where his brand of dry humor will certainly go over fewer heads.

Institute of Culinary Education

50 West 23rd Street, New York NY 10010 (map)


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