Pronto - A Cooking School for One and All in Lenox
The three-month-old Pronto Cooking School in the heart of Lenox feels homey—if home were a loft decorated with a smart mix of flea market finds and fixtures from a professional restaurant supply house. Founder Elyse Ettling is the sort of ebullient woman who believes that preparing food and eating it should be fun, and she has created a school in her own exuberant image. “I started working in a French restaurant kitchen in Acton, MA, when I was thirteen,” says Etling, who now lives on a farm in Richmond, MA, with her partner, Lauren Joy, and their two young daughters. “I had a very successful catering company in Boston called Amano that did five or six weddings a weekend. I managed a Williams-Sonoma. Then I moved here and had the Richmond Store and the Amano cafe below the post office, and then I took off time to be with my children. This is my first cooking school.”
Etling is hoping to encourage people who’ve come to rely on restaurants for entertaining to get back into the kitchen. She has designed her space so that stainless steel tables can be rolled into the middle of the room as work stations (with retractable power cords hanging from the ceiling) while she or another chef demonstrates by the stoves and students follow along. “Everything here is normal sized,” she says, pointing to the Le Creuset pots on the Wolf gas ranges. “I really want people to feel comfortable so they can go home and cook.” (She’s hung old posters of Julia Child and James Beard on the walls that signify she’s into classic, honest cooking.) She is offering 90-minute “bullet classes” ($40) where you prepare a meal for two and take it home for dinner as well as four-hour classes such as Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen ($65) on Saturday, November 13, where you sit down to lunch with your classmates after preparing a five-course meal.
Etling is not sure what her recipe for success will be, so she is trying all sorts of events. “Last week, we had a children’s Halloween cooking class [$25] that was really fun with fifteen kids ages five to nine. They decorated cookies, of course, and I had Obee, the butcher from Mazzeo’s, demonstrate how to grind beef. Then they made ‘mummy meatballs’ (left) that were wrapped in noodles with olive eyes, and we made spider-web pizzas with squeeze bottles. We did a Tailgating class a couple of weeks ago, and we made Bloody Mary Soup and Muffalettas, which people can duplicate for Super Bowl parties.”
One of the reasons Etling chose her off-street location in Lenox was that it had a big patio that can seat 55 in summer. “I bought some wonderful folding German beer garden tables at Brimfield that we can set up,” she says. “We have a large Weber grill and a Big Green Egg for smoking and we’ll hold classes outside in the warm weather. We’ll also host parties there, too.” She will do some catering as well. “I like catering events here. You don’t need a van and you can’t forget to bring something!” She is hoping that businesses and charities will consider having holiday cooking parties at Pronto. “It’s great fun,” she says. “You prepare and eat a meal together and then when you go home, we clean up and do the dishes.”
Pronto Cooking School
18 Franklin Street, Lenox, MA ; 413.637.3949