Jul 24, 2015 - Food and Drink

Food Hack: How I took a free cooking class, ate free food, and discovered the ultimate trick to entertaining small children.



Who doesn’t love to eat for free? I see you, fellow food lover, hovering and trying to make awkward small talk with the samples person at Costco (See also: Harris Teeter, Reid’s, Dean & Deluca, Whole Foods).

Well, hand-wring no more. I have found the ultimate, guilt-free solve and I will be going back often to reap the continuous benefits of my discovery.


You may think of the Williams-Sonoma in South Park as a sea of shiny, new objects adrift with young couples in love wielding guns (of the wedding registry kind). Our Charlotte location is also home to a beautiful test kitchen, which means our community has access to their highly delicious cooking technique classes (offered at both the Adult and “Junior Chef” levels).


The most recent class taught us how to cook with a salt plate and offered the class copious tastes of the food being prepared.


Salt plates are beautiful, solid pink blocks of Himalayan Sea Salt. They retain heat and cold, so can be used in innovative ways of cooking and presentation. The salt’s stunning color and elegant flavor, in addition to being hand-mined in the Himalayan Mountains, makes it a coveted treat amongst chefs and foodies alike.

The James Beard Award-winning author, Mark Bitterman, is so wildly infatuated by salt and salt block vessels that he created his own retail stores dedicated to the world of salt (and chocolate too – he has good taste). His shop, The Meadow, regularly promotes the culinary prowess of using salt blocks in the kitchen and on the grill.

I will start by saying that I cannot imagine how another Williams-Sonoma class could offer a more salivating menu, but I will happily try their other technique courses.

Wanda, our instructor, talked us through dishes that ranged from a main course to a dessert finale as we gathered around the kitchen in the front of the checkout counter. This time in particular, all of the seafood was sponsored by Clean Catch Fish Market.


  • Coconut-Curry Jumbo Shrimp Skewers
  • Jumbo Shrimp Marinated in Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper
coconut curry shrimp
  • Tin Roof Sundae

Our first order of business was learning how to cook shrimp marinated simply in olive oil, salt and pepper.  The salt block had been pre-heating in the oven and she pulled it out using heat-resistant gloves that were simultaneously aggressive and goofy. The sizzle as the jumbo shrimp hit the block sang sweet siren promises.


The Coconut-Curry Shrimp was interesting; I had assumed that it would be sweet, but it turned out to be a very savory dish. The easy process involved combining coconut milk, lime juice, lime zest and a mixture of powders: curry, garlic, onion, ginger, and cayenne, then marinating for 10 minutes.

I was ebullient when biting into both versions – the salt blocks provided every surface with intense seasoning and the shrimp were so plump they popped like a perfectly ripe grape at every chomp.

Then, when I had already felt as though I was a guaranteed returning student, they brought out the frozen plate. WARNING: SUGAR AND SALTY/SAVORY ADDICTS AVERT YOUR EYES.

Yes, that is what happens when a cold stone is, in fact, made entirely of salt. The Tin Roof Sundae was a wonderfully luscious vanilla topped off with chocolate chips and slivered almonds. Using a spatula, Wanda then mixed these items together, while telling us about how much children adore this activity.

At this point, dear reader, we were all hovering yet again. This time though, it was permissible – we were students, you see. We were learning the salt block techniques through our eyes and taste buds.

The sundaes vanished from our plates within seconds. Who can resist gobbling salty, chocolate, creamy sweetness?

Then one of the students asked the instructor for her Sundae plate.

She said yes and at that moment, I knew the staff at Williams-Sonoma were selfless members of another world.

Connect with Williams- Sonoma SouthPark:


6401 Morrison Blvd, Ste 14 and 15, Charlotte, NC 28211 | (704) 364-8886

Find more recipes here

Future classes:

Saturday, July 25 at 10am – DIY Ice Cream Sandwiches (Ages 5-13)
Sunday, July 26 – Nonstick Sautéing from Fish to Seasonal Vegetables

Think there’s another class I should try? I want to know! Holler at me: Email, Instagram, Twitter.


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