Step onto Sunny’s porch in Bayside, Queens and the first thing you’ll notice is a crock of soy sauce fermenting.
Step inside her kitchen and you’ll learn the secrets to making watercress salad with toasted sesame seeds and pajeon (scallion pancakes) made with organic eggs and just the faintest dusting of flour.
The only way to gain entrance to Sunny’s place? That would be League of Kitchens.
League of Kitchens is an immersive culinary adventure where immigrants teach intimate cooking workshops in their own homes ($95 to $145).
The idea was cooked up by Lisa Gross, the grandchild of a Korean immigrant. Lisa’s grandmother was so intent on making sure that her grandchild studied that she kept her out of the kitchen. As an adult, Lisa had a B.A. from Yale to show for her efforts, but couldn’t replicate the flavors of her grandmother’s cooking. “Nothing I made ever tasted as good as my grandmother’s food,” she says.
This experience led her to dream up League of Kitchens, which can connect you with instructors from every pocket of the world, including Trinidad, Afghanistan and Greece. Many of the instructors also grow their own produce—like Sunny, who grows 20 varieties of vegetables and six different fruit trees.
The experience of being in a stranger’s home means this is an intimate cooking experience, best for those adventurous at heart. However, any lingering awkwardness is easy to gloss over when you are welcomed so warmly with green tea and personal tales. The benefit of learning next to a seasoned cook means you’ll get to pick up on those subtle but important techniques and tricks that so often get left out of written recipes.
After cooking alongside the instructor, you will sit down to enjoy your dishes and hear more stories. Best of all: The leftovers go home with you, along with new recipes and a huge helping of inspiration.