Marilee and Richard Spanjian did not set out to buy an inn. Keying off of their shared interest in cuisine, the couple were simply in search of a food-related business where they could offer cooking classes. After examining a variety of opportunities, they discovered The Inn at Weathersfield (weathersfieldinn.com), a 12-room inn on 21 acres near Woodstock, Vt., which they purchased in 2012. “Our fondest memories revolve around food,” Marilee says. “This was a good project.” Under a year later, the Spanjians opened The Hidden Kitchen, the inn’s hands-on cooking classroom, located in the loft of the property’s newly renovated and converted barn. The light and airy kitchen overlooks the vegetable garden from which they source seasonal ingredients to supplement their partnerships with local farms. The restaurant’s chef, Michael Ehlenfeldt, who spent more than a dozen years under Gordon Hamersley of Hamersley’s Bistro in Boston, leads most of the sessions, accompanied by Marilee, who describes herself as “the sidekick.” Guest instructors have included local chef Denise Altland— who taught winter dinner party favorites like beef bourguignon—as well as the chief of the Abenaki tribe, who taught how to roast trout over an open fire.
For cooking on the Maine coast, try a class at White Barn Inn (aubergeresorts.com/whitebarninn.com), a Kennebunkport landmark with 27 rooms and two restaurants. Executive chef Matthew Padilla, who took over the kitchen at this Auberge Resorts Collection property in 2017, takes students into his kingdom for an experience that’s as immersive as they’d like. “People who jump in and get their hands dirty are my favorite ones to work with,” he says. Padilla teaches amid the hustle and bustle of the restaurant’s kitchen. Given the Maine locale, lobster is often involved. In the dead of winter, a braised short rib ragu is a likely substitute. Guests can even make requests, like how to use a pressure cooker. “I like to teach things that people don’t tackle at home,” Padilla says. “I show how it can be executed simply, using a straightforward, methodical approach.”
For a jaunt just outside the city, head up to Saltbox Farm (saltboxfarmconcord.com) in Concord. Chef Aaron Furmanek, who worked as a sous-chef at Centre Street Café as well as at America’s Test Kitchen, oversees the 10-acre farm’s cooking school. The kitchen classroom is located in a charming 17th-century cottage with wide pine board floors, wood-paneled walls and brick fireplaces. His intimate, experiential instruction follow his philosophy that food ought to be made and eaten together. “Not everyone will dice an onion, but everyone will cut something,” he says. In January and February, expect fresh pastas, stews and Valentine’s Day couples dinners. During the growing season, meals make use of whatever they harvest. “Are we farm-to-table?” Furmanek asks. “Well, I’m lucky to cook with the farm behind me and the table to my right.”