This summer, Chef Gerardo Moceri of Cucina Paradiso and the Payson Bashas' have teamed up to give Rim country residents a look at Italian cooking with monthly demonstrations.
The free programs have attracted an average of 80 people per demonstration.
Most recently, Aug. 9, Moceri demonstrated making fresh mozzarella cheese and many of its uses, including a super Tuscan salad. The next program, scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20, will feature Italian desserts, including gelato.
With the success of the Bashas' programs, Moceri is taking things to the next level with hands-on cooking classes in the Cucina Paradiso kitchen, starting at the end of September.
"Every recipe can be made at home and the ingredients can either be found here in town or over the Internet," Moceri said.
To make it possible to hold the classes, Moceri will have to charge $40 per person per class, though if someone is signing up for all the classes, special fee arrangements will be considered. He said at least 12 people must register for a class, but he will not have room for more than 16.
To register, people need only to contact Cucina Paradiso at (928) 468-6500.
The restaurant will be supplying aprons, but Moceri said students should wear clothes they don't mind getting dirty because they will be doing some serious cooking.
Classes will be from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and participants will be eating what they make in class, Moceri said.
"We will be doing a little on the wine to serve with each dish," he said.
Some of the recipes he plans to teach are for pastas; pizza and bread; dessert; and mozzarella.
There will also be lessons about the different kinds of oils that can be used, oils from all over the world.
"It will be whatever the participants want to get into," Moceri said. "Some may want to know how to do a four-course meal. Maybe there will be so many that want to learn about pasta we have to do it for two sessions.
"It will be very student directed. Nothing is set in stone."
Moceri said it will all be very flexible, and if a business wants to put its employees in a kitchen for a team-building exercise or a group of women want a private class, those things can be arranged as well.
Moceri said he may also bring guest instructors into the class, such as his friends Jimmy Panebianco and Andy Pappas.
Moceri is not new to teaching hands-on cooking. He did classes for a community college in Hawaii and used the classes to help raise money for scholarships to send students to study cooking in Europe. He also worked as a guest instructor at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute.
"The idea behind this is to let the community know we are here to stay. We're not going anywhere," Moceri said.
"This is a real McCoy restaurant, a family business."
Moceri shares some of his recipes in the "In the Kitchen" column in this edition of The Rim Review.