Real People. Stihl People.

Rural Missouri Magazine

Guests in the kitchen
Two Rocheport hosts put a new twist
on the usual B&B visit by teaching guests to cook

by Heather Berry
Mary Schlueter, co-owner of Amber House B&B and a former chef, teaches guests to cook during a weekend at “Two in the Kitchen Cooking School.” The weekend workshop gives attendees a chance to learn while relaxing at a B&B.

It’s Friday afternoon and the guests have checked in at their respective bed and breakfast inns. At 6 p.m., when everyone else has gone out for the evening, guests from two inns gather in the Yates House B&B dining room, don aprons and eagerly await instruction from two chefs.

Dixie Yates, co-owner of Yates House Bed & Breakfast, offers each guest a folder that includes menus and recipes. “We’ll be preparing a simple but elegant meal this evening,

Mary Schlueter, co-owner of Amber House B&B, begins by visiting with the culinary students about the menu for the Saturday evening dinner, which will be much more hands-on than tonight’s roasted salmon.

Dixie and Mary are partners in “Two in The Kitchen Cooking School.” The weekend workshop involves educational cooking sessions in two Rocheport B&Bs, where guests can get their hands messy while relaxing.

“It’s a wonderful experience,” says Ruth Ann Case, a guest from Lee’s Summit. “Sure, I can learn to cook without coming here, but getting to know the other guests and visit more with the innkeepers makes it extra special.”

Two in the Kitchen Cooking School was born in 2004, when Dixie began offering gourmet cooking classes as part of the B&B experience. Dixie and her husband, Conrad, opened Yates House in 1999, before converting their garage into a professional kitchen in 2001. Soon after, Dixie began hosting gourmet cooking classes where professional chefs taught sessions to guests. She then met Mary, a former guest chef from Scottsdale, Ariz., and the school was born.

Workshop attendees prepare two evening meals during their stay.

Guests attending the cooking courses start their Friday evening class with a visit from Cory Bomgaars, vintner at Rocheport’s Les Bourgeois Winery. After his chat with guests about pairing wines with foods, Cory fields any questions from the group. Guests attending the class are also told they’ll be given a special winery tour the next day as part of their cooking experience.

“We just added the wine chat and tour this year and it’s gone over extremely well,” says Dixie.

After the wine lesson, it’s off to the kitchen. Dixie and Mary answer questions as the group prepares spinach salad and roasted salmon with asparagus. For dessert, they combine strawberries in a balsamic syrup with angel-food cake with real whipped cream.

“Class is always hands-on, no matter what we’re preparing,” says Dixie, a member of Boone Electric Cooperative. “People are more relaxed in this setting and they learn so much more than if they are watching a demonstration.”

On this evening, the guest chefs are seated by 7:45 in the dining room, where they enjoy the fruits of their labor. After the main course, they savor Les Bourgeois’ vignole wine with dessert. Then they head to their Yates House or Amber House B&B rooms for the night.

The next morning, it’s back to Yates House for a scrumptious breakfast, which they don’t have to prepare themselves. After breakfast, they have free time until the early afternoon, when they meet at the winery for a special tour. The break gives guests time to rent a bike and ride the Katy trail or visit Rocheport’s many charming antique stores and art shops.

Later that afternoon, guests gather at the Amber House B&B to begin prep-work on the Saturday evening meal. The rack of lamb dinner was the main reason guests signed up for this particular class.

Class instructor Dixie Yates, right, teaches guest Lisa Waterman to cook with vanilla beans while guest Jackie Faber, left, prepares a lemon vinaigrette.

“Today we’ll be preparing individual goat cheese soufflés and learn how to properly prepare a rack of lamb with mint Dijon crust,” says Mary, also a member of Boone Electric Cooperative. “Then we’ll work on the orzo (a rice-shaped pasta) and the rose-water crème brulee for dessert.”

Before the student chefs have a chance to become overwhelmed, Mary and Dixie instruct groups of two to begin preparing various aspects of the meal. That evening, they’ll enjoy the meal by candlelight in the Amber House dining room.

“We try to stay in-tune to what people want. Some people will try anything and aren’t intimidated, while other guests are more timid and hesitant. So we’re sensitive to that,” says Mary. “In our classes, there’s no pressure. People can do as much or as little as they’d like.”

Currently, Mary and Dixie only host five monthly classes from January through May, but they’re already planning for their culinary future.

“We want to begin holding day classes, which won’t require people to stay at the B&Bs,” says Dixie.

The duo says they’ll be glad to conduct a custom class for groups of 10 to 12. “We can show them menus we’ve offered before or customize a menu just for that group,” says Mary.

Mary Schlueter, right, shows guests Jim and Ruth Ann Case how to prepare creme brulee dessert.

Menus can range from fairly simple to complex, offering Tuscany or Spanish-themed menus to more specific menus such as stuffed tenderloin or lamb.

Guests who attend the gourmet cooking weekends are required to stay at either Yates House or Amber House for two nights, with an additional charge of $125 per person for their culinary experience. The fee covers all supplies, instruction, wine tour and meals during the classes.

More than 100 people have come through the B&B cooking classes since Dixie and Mary started their culinary weekends two years ago. Guests leave feeling relaxed as well as more confident with their cooking abilities.

“Cooking is magical — we see that every time we host a class,” says Mary. “People come here as strangers and they’re often very different people. By the time the class is over, they’re good friends. That’s the magic that happens when people get together and share food.”

For more information, contact Yates House B&B at (573) 698-2129 or Amber House B&B at (573) 698-2028. You can also learn more at the inns’ Web sites, www.yateshouse.com and www.amberhousebb.com.

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