San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Get Cooking: Variety of Culinary Classes on Offer

Those looking to sharpen their skills in the kitchen have plenty of options in the Central Valley. While many local cooking instructors take a break for the holidays, culinary schools will be opening up again full force in January and into the spring.

Ana Brenes specializes in teaching how to cook easy but sophisticated food in courses of two or four weeks, one class per week, out of her house in Santa Ana, southwest of the capital. Brenes describes her courses, which are given in English and Spanish, as “a relaxing three-hour experience after work.”

Students, mostly in their 30s and 40s, flock to her house after work and are greeted with all the ingredients and recipes needed for the night, as well as refreshments. They cook a full meal, which usually includes four to five recipes, and the class eats the meal together afterwards. Usually Brenes cooks while the people in the class help, thus learning to replicate the food on their own later.

Brenes charges ¢50,000 ($90) for four classes. Her home is 250 meters north of Bacchus restaurant’s parking lot in downtown Santa Ana. For information, contact her at 2203-8225, 8370-4969 or

BocArt, with locations in the western suburb of Escazú and in Guadalupe, in northeastern San José, will start cooking classes again in January. The schedule for the new year is yet to be determined, but courses on Christmas cooking and celebratory meals have been offered in the past.

A four-time course of three hours each costs ¢88,000 ($160), including materials. For information, visit or call the Escazú office in Plaza Itskatzú at 2228-0804, or the Guadalupe office, 300 meters south of Clínica Católica, at 2225-1013.

Noted chef Isabel Campabadal gives lessons from her Gastronomic Institute in Granadilla Norte de Curridabat, east of San José, which boasts one of the largest cookbook libraries in the country. Campabadal offers special tourist group classes, private lessons and regularly scheduled group lessons, which will start again in February.

According to her Web site,, Campabadal has cooked for former U.S. President Bill Clinton and a conference of 30 Hollywood actors in Quepos, on the central Pacific coast. She has published several cookbooks, including “The New Costa Rican Cuisine,” available in English and Spanish. Most recently, she’s taught Christmas cooking and bread and dessert making. In March, she will be starting a course on French cuisine.

A class that meets four times costs about ¢80,000 ($145). Classes are available in English if arranged in a special group; for information, call 2224-5803.

At Lluna de Valencia restaurant in Heredia, north of San José, you can learn how to make the steamy delight known as paella, as well as other Spanish cuisine.

Classes start up again in March and are held weeknights. Three courses cost ¢15,000 ($27), with usually about 15 people per class. For more information, call 2269-6665.

Big Mike’s culinary school in Escazú offers cooking lessons on anything from making sausage to exploring Caribbean cooking. Call 289-6087 for directions and a class schedule, or visit Classes are about $25 per person, plus fees for the food, which the class eats together at the end of the lesson. Courses are available in English and Spanish.

Estudio Gastronómico Mucho Gusto gives cooking lessons out of its location in the eastern San José neighborhood of Barrio Dent, next to the Costa Rican-North American Cultural Center. A wide variety of classes is offered, from sushi to Peruvian fusion to pastry workshops. Courses in English are available upon request. The school also offers lessons on being a restaurateur.

A six-week beginning cooking class of one three-hour session per week costs ¢65,000 ($118). For information, call 2283-0446 or visit


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