by Jesse Hirsch
Every few months I stumble on a photo of the wacky owners of the Kitchen on Fire cooking school in Berkeley, mugging with ludicrously oversized knives or sticking weird objects in their mouths. Positioning themselves as bad-boy outsiders of the culinary community, they’re about as edgy as a mash-up of Guy Fieri and Penn and Teller. The taglines write themselves: They’re crazy….about cooking!
But classically trained chefs MikeC (his legal name) and Olivier Said (former co-owner of César Berkeley) have shown a surprising amount of endurance and growth in their six years running Kitchen on Fire. This month they launched a second Berkeley location that’s twice as big as the first. And whether or not you dig their goofy antics, these dudes have clearly tapped into a sharp business model.
“We do comedy skits and use bullwhips to explain how proteins are denatured, but that’s just so you don’t fall asleep,” says MikeC, sounding like a kid who thinks school is a major drag. “Professors can be so boring; we’d hate for you to run out of the class screaming.”
Classes range from making perfect batters to sushi and nigiri prep. They aren’t cheap — $70 for a one-off or $800 for twelve-week sessions — but they sell out regularly. The new location, a few blocks from Berkeley Bowl West, will enable Kitchen on Fire to add many new classes and private corporate team-building sessions. Said also reports that they are hiring more cooking instructors; no professional background necessary.
Oh, and about that tagline: MikeC says they’re “Seriously funny, but also serious about food.” Ooph.
Kitchen on Fire, 510-548-2665, KitchenonFire.com
North: 1509 Shattuck Ave., # A, Berkeley
West: 2940 Seventh St., Berkeley
Comments? Tips? Get in touch at Jesse.Hirsch@EastBayExpress.com.