Cooking with the Best Chefs comes to Rockford

Bill Lavery of Roselle has been “Cooking with the Best Chefs” for a little more than nine years. More than 400 of the best chefs from the Chicago area, to be exact. Now, Lavery plans to cook with some of Rockford’s best chefs.

In 1995, Lavery founded Cooking with the Best Chefs, a touring company that organizes series of cooking classes and wine dinners in Mount Prospect, Kildeer, Wheaton and, most recently, Rockford. The classes are led by local chefs from those areas.

Jan. 11, Lavery kicked off the Rockford series of classes at Kiki B’s, 1641 N. Alpine Rd., with Rockford’s Der Rathskeller chef and owner Mike DuPre presenting traditional German specialties. The series will continue through March at Kiki B’s with more Wednesday night classes and a couple Saturday morning classes, some of them hands-on. All events will be led by chefs from the Rockford area.

The next class, from 7 to 9 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 25, will feature Kiki B’s and A Moveable Feast executive chef Dale Leden presenting a three-course dinner, including the following: Sambuca Seared Shrimp with fresh tarragon and Roma tomatoes over angel hair pasta; Sun-Dried Tomato Salmon Roulade over sweet corn-wild rice pilaf and fresh lime; and Amaretto-Filled Strawberries, dipped in dark chocolate. A list of Rockford events is listed at the end of this article.

The classes, which promote food safety and sanitation, are presented in what Lavery called a “mirror” format, with Lavery playing the clueless sidekick to the knowledgeable chefs. He asks all the questions during the presentations, while audience members are encouraged to save their questions for a question and answer session that follows each presentation.

The Kiki B’s classes can accommodate up to 50-60 audience members, and those attending are encouraged to bring a notebook and clipboard.

“Our classes are organized in a way they’re not like most classes,” Lavery said. “We have a lot of fun with the classes. They’re presented in a way they (audience members) don’t feel overwhelmed.”

Lavery added that since each chef brings his or her own experiences to the table, “You’ll learn from the life experiences of all the different chefs. For $25-$35 per class, it’s something that will stay with you for the rest of your life.”

Classes are $35 for nonmembers, $25 for members, and registration is required at least seven days prior to events to 630/980-6800. Hands-on events are $80 for nonmembers, $65 for members. Annual registration to Cooking with the Best Chefs is $25 per household. Registration entitles members to discounted registration, admission to member-only events, and class and event schedules. A Cooking with the Best Chefs Membership & Discount Card is also provided. Those interested can also register online by PayPal at

Following is a complete list of scheduled Cooking with the Best Chefs events at Kiki B’s in Rockford:

Wednesday, Feb. 8, 7-9 p.m.—Dinner from Scratch with John Branyan, Culinary Institute of America, executive chef, Garrett’s Café, Rockford. Homemade Pumpkin Ravioli in sage cream, goat cheese salad with pure maple vinaigrette; and Sauteéd Salmon with applewood-smoked bacon, braised Swiss chard and fried leek on wild mushroom ragout.

Saturday, Feb. 18, 8:30 a.m.-noon—Beginning Sushi Hands-On Class with Ryan Adams, executive chef, Paragon on State, Rockford. Learn the basics of sushi making, including sushi rice, seafood and vegetable ingredients, and assembly of various types of rolls, including Manhattan Roll, Paragon Roll, Shrimp Tempura Roll, Spicy Shrimp Roll, Spider Roll, and Black Cod in a lunch box with black cod marinated in Paragon on State’s own Miso Sauce and roasted, served with two sides. Each person is responsible for bringing a paring knife and cutting board to class. Mats, other supplies and take-home containers will be furnished.

Wednesday, Feb. 22, 7-9 p.m.—Winter Comfort with Tom James, chef-owner, The Huddle Restaurant, Belvidere. Apple Almond-Stuffed Pork with apple jack sauce, served with roasted garlic mashed red potatoes; and Smoked Sausage and Cream Cheese-Stuffed Boneless Chicken Breast with veloute sauce, served with honey mustard-glazed whole baby carrots.

Saturday, Feb. 25, 10 a.m.-noon—Kids’ Party Foods with Kiki Benson, owner, Kiki B’s and A Movable Feast, Rockford. Gourmet pizzas with fresh dough and fun ingredients; chicken and provolone panini sandwiches; fresh fruit tart with homemade pastry; and fruit smoothies. The class is open to kids 5-17 and their parents or guardians. Cost is $20 per child and per adult accompanying a child.

Wednesday, March 8, 7-9 p.m.—European Homestyle Cooking with Jason Kovanda, executive chef, University Club, Rockford. Escarole with Three Butters: hotel butter with herbs, sun-dried tomato butter and pesto butter; Sauteed Braciola, sliced sirloin with prosciutto, and fontina cheese rolled up and sauteed with tomatoes, green olives and pepperoncini; and Chicken Coq au Vin, boned chicken marinated in red wine, sauteed and served with pan sauce, new potatoes, and haricot vert, French beans.

Wednesday, March 22, 7-9 p.m.—Italian Pasta and Mushrooms with Manny Trejo, executive chef, Table 13, Rockford. Four-Mushroom Rissotto, aborio rice with shiitake, cremini and porcini mushrooms with white truffle oil; Tortellini Paesana, tortellini with prosciuto, peas, mushrooms and parmesan cream sauce; and Pollo Con Porcini, sauteed chicken breast and porcini mushrooms in a white wine and marsala sauce.

For more information, contact Cooking with the Best Chefs at 630/980-6800, visit or contact Kiki B’s at 986-0338.

From the Jan. 18-24, 2006, issue

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