DOMINICK'S COOKING CLASSES HOT

NORTHLAKE, Ill. (FNS) -- Dominick's Finer Foods here is incorporating education into its product mix by offering cooking classes, lectures and hands-on sessions at the chain's two Fresh Ideas Centers.The Fresh Ideas Centers have been in operation just under one year at the retailer's Schaumburg and Highland Park units, former Byerly's stores that were converted to Dominick's stores. Each center includes

NORTHLAKE, Ill. (FNS) -- Dominick's Finer Foods here is incorporating education into its product mix by offering cooking classes, lectures and hands-on sessions at the chain's two Fresh Ideas Centers.

The Fresh Ideas Centers have been in operation just under one year at the retailer's Schaumburg and Highland Park units, former Byerly's stores that were converted to Dominick's stores. Each center includes a fully equipped cooking school area with a demonstration kitchen, complete with an overhead mirror and seating.

"We see the Fresh Ideas Centers as another service to the customer," said Shana Pritchett, registered dietitian and public relations associate. "We had the space and the Fresh Ideas Centers are just a great way to utilize it."

According to Pritchett, the most popular courses are the cooking-for-kids offerings and the craft-oriented classes, such as floral arranging. Holiday-themed classes are particularly well attended, according to Pritchett.

"The Christmas wreath-making classes fill up quickly, as do the gingerbread house-building classes," she said. For the gingerbread house-building classes, Dominick's offers an adult class and a specially designed children's class.

"The kids' classes really took off," said Pritchett. This past summer, the stores held a one-week kids' cooking camp. In a two-hour, $5 session, area children learned to cook food groups by a daily "theme" such as health and fitness, pastries and kitchen science. As part of the camp, the youngsters were treated to tours of store sections including the bakery department and the ethnic foods aisle, and also received an apron and a daily goodie bag.

Likewise, on "Give Mother Earth a Hug Day," the children toured the produce department, learned about organics and exotic fruits and planted their own minigarden.

For adults, cooking classes range from selecting and preparing gourmet meals to pure entertainment. "We have had a Cajun chef from Louisiana who plays his fiddle while the pot simmers," said Pritchett.

Lectures, given by celebrities, renowned local chefs and authors are also highly attended. Additionally, the operator is working with area hospitals to book speakers on health, lifestyle and wellness issues.

A few of the most recent class offerings included "Barbeque Man" Larry Gerber presenting a fall mixed grill, a floral design class incorporating fall leaves and fruit, and a pies and tart class featuring pears and apples. Lectures on "I'm Going to Age Well or Die Trying" and "Brown Bag Success" were presented by cookbook authors as part of the Dominick's Luncheon Series.

Kids classes featured a Teddy Bear Picnic and sponge and potato painting. Course fees ranged from $5 to $15 per attendee.