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Lawrenceville chef heads up new cooking school

Chef Fred Genovese of Lawrenceville wants to encourage people to enjoy themselves in the kitchen. In fact, he's doing more than endorsing the idea. As the resident chef at the new Apron's Cooking School at Publix in Alpharetta, he's actually teaching people how to have a good time cooking.

"It's just a place to come and have fun. Don't be intimidated by a hands-on class," Genovese said.

The cooking school is the grocery store chain's first one in Georgia. Three others are located at Publix stores in Florida.

In addition to offering classes in everything from basic knife skills to making pasta, Apron's Cooking School hosts celebrity chefs. The cooking school opened officially on June 1 with a demonstration from New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme.

"When I introduced him, I said, 'He's a living legend.' I don't know how many people get to work with a living legend," Genovese said.

As the co-host of the "Chef and the Fatman" radio show, Genovese has worked with culinary personalities such as Alton Brown, Emeril Lagasse and Sara Moulton, but Prudhomme made the biggest impression on him.

"He is, by far, my favorite," Genovese said.

On June 1, Prudhomme began his class at Apron's by asking the class, "Are you happy?" The gathered crowd, which was seated at tables facing the demonstration kitchen, responded with an emphatic "Yeah."

"You gotta be happy to cook. It's important," Prudhomme said.

The menu for his class featured a chicken-and-smoked-sausage gumbo, bronzed beef tenderloin with a gingersnap gravy and the mashed potatoes served at Prudhomme's restaurant, K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen in New Orleans. The chef also made corn maque choux, which is made with fresh corn, onions, vegetable stock and non-dairy cream. The dish is one of the chef's favorites. For dessert, he prepared sweet potato pecan pie with a chantilly cream.

As Prudhomme stirred a roux of peanut oil and flour to use as a base for his chicken-and-smoked-sausage gumbo, he told the audience that he has never stopped learning and improving what he does in the kitchen.

The down-to-earth chef learned to cook as a child in his mother's kitchen. "From that is where the real understanding of food came from. She was amazing," Prudhomme said.

His cooking demonstration, which was as entertaining as it was informative, included plenty of stories from the past, as well as a lot of advice.

Prudhomme believes that everyone can be successful in the kitchen - even when making a somewhat challenging roux.

"Anybody can do it and they can do it in their own way and in their own style," Prudhomme said.

Class schedule

•4 p.m. Monday: Teens at the Grill: This class emphasizes grill safety and grilled dishes. $25.

•7 p.m. Thursday: Mother Sauces: Five basic sauces will be covered in this session. $40.

•7 p.m. Friday: Girls' Night Out: This evening will focus on food and wine that can be shared with friends. $35.

•7 p.m. Saturday: Pasta, Risotto and Gnocchi: Students in this class will learn to make pasta and gnocchi from scratch, as well as the secrets to creamy risotto. $40.

•7 p.m. June 25: Beyond Brownies: This evening, brownies made with ingredients like mint, cream cheese and hazelnut will be served up. $35.

•7 p.m. June 28: Dinner at Eight: During this session, students will prepare a meal they will then eat. $40.

•7 p.m. June 29: Wine and Cheese Party: Food and drink pairings will be discussed in this class. $40.

•2 p.m. June 30: Art Smith, personal chef to Oprah Winfrey, will sign copies of his book "Back to the Family." This event is free.

•7 p.m. June 30: Steakhouses Around the World: Steak recipes will be the focus of this session. $45.

Crab-Stuffed Shrimp

2 tablespoons butter

2 green onions, minced

1⁄2 small red pepper

1 jalapeno pepper, minced

2 tablespoons flour

3 tablespoons heavy cream

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons dijon mustard

1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

1 pound lump crab meat

Salt and pepper to taste

2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tail on

Melt butter over medium heat in a 9-inch saute pan. Add vegetables and cook until soft. Add flour and stir over medium heat until light blond in color (about 4 to 5 minutes). Stir in heavy cream, then remove from heat.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine egg yolks, mustard and seasoning. Slowly add small amounts of vegetable roux to egg mixture, stirring constantly until well incorporated. Gently fold in crabmeat, taste and season. Keep cold. Take the shrimp and cut through the vein side far enough so that the shrimp sit flat (this is known as butterflying).

Take a little bit of the crab mixture and place it on the body of the shrimp so the tail is facing up. Place on a greased pan and bake in the oven for 8 minutes. Serve with spicy remoulade sauce (recipe below).

Source: Apron's Cooking School at Publix

Spicy Remoulade Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise

1⁄4 cup prepared mustard

1⁄2 cup celery, finely chopped

1⁄3 cup green onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped

1⁄4 cup horseradish

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1⁄2 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1⁄2 teaspoon dry mustard

2 tablespoons white vinegar

3 dashes Tabasco sauce

1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon paprika

Put all the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Mix well to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Source: Apron's Cooking School at Publix