Sharpen your cooking (or cocktail) skills with virtual classes from Midwest chefs and mixologists.

By Ginger Crichton
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We’re all #athome and trying to bake bread (if you can find yeast) or to find new ways to use pasta and butternut squash. Or maybe just looking for a new cocktail idea.

Midwest chefs and mixologists can help. While restaurants have closed or switched to takeout-only during the coronavirus pandemic, some of the Midwest’s leading chefs—including  Stephanie Izard, Andrew Zimmern and Michael Symon—are providing free online cooking demos.

Plus, a number of distilleries and breweries host virtual cocktail classes, with ingredients provided for an extra fee if you live close enough to pick them up.

Here’s a sampler of what’s available:

  • Zimmern—a Minneapolis-based James Beard award-winning chef, writer, and TV personality—shared his top 25 recipes on his Facebook page with short video instruction. You can scroll down the page to watch videos where he makes specialties such as Fried Whole Yellowtail Snapper, Kielbasa Split Pea Soup and Fried Chicken Summern Rolls. Find recipes on his website.
  • Cleveland chef and television personality Symon launched free, live cooking demos via Food Network Kitchen on  Facebook. In videos that run about 20 to 25 minutes, see him create dishes like shrimp scampi or sweet potato stew.
  • Izard—a Top Chef winner and chef of four Chicago-area restaurants— has hosted free Instagram live demos of popular dishes such as machos nachos from Izard's Little Goat Diner. Check her Instagram feed and highlights for cooking tips and recipes for salmon crepes, whole fish, chili vinaigrette, ramp yogurt and more.
  • Rhine Hall, a small-batch distillery in Chicago, offers new virtual cocktail classes. For $15, you’ll get an invite to join an hour-long Zoom session with expert instruction on topics such as contemporary cocktails, syrups and bitters, or Cinco de Mayo drinks.
  • Also in Chicago, Ina Mae Tavern promotes a virtual cocktail challenge (“Order, shake it up, post”) with a kit for pick-up or delivery and instructions. Kits make 10 cocktails and cost $42 to $50.
  • The Culinary Center of Kansas City has moved some of its regular cooking classes online. You can practice your skills in a closed Facebook group, as well as download a booklet with recipes. Classes, which cost $30 to $35, cover themes such as The Art of the French Macaron, Mexican Cocina Cooking Party, A Beautiful Spring Brunch Menu and A Primer on Knives.
  • The Cooks of Crocus Hill in Minnesota has posted free mini-class videos on creating a soup out of pantry and crisper draw leftovers, overnight oats, star bread, roasted vegetables and more.

• Real Food 4 Kids in Des Moines just launched an online cooking series with 6 kid-friendly lessons and downloadable recipes. Through the end of May, you can get a free trial subscription.

Check the social media feed of your favorite local restaurants to see if they have cooking classes, meal kits, take-out or other options.

Editorial assistant Cheyann Neades contributed to research for this story.