May 20 2016 - BY GIBSON THOMAS

Program’s Annual Spring Restaurant Cultivates Kitchen Confidence

We featured Barbara Alexander, the executive chef and director of culinary programs at Napa Valley College’s Napa Valley Cooking School, in Marissa La Brecque’s Escoffier Questionnaire in our Winter 2014 issue. There, La Brecque noted of Alexander, “How well she understands the phases of confidence and competence, how each student becomes a cook over the course of their education.”

Nowhere is this more in evidence than when observing Alexander with her students in the actual flow of service during the cooking school’s annual Spring Restaurant, three weeks of eight-course degustation menu lunches open to the public. This is heat-of-the-kitchen, realworld experience for the almost-graduates of the school’s intensive fourteen-month program, often serving local chefs from prospective extern sites, as well as winemakers and executives from world-class wineries who have graciously donated their wines to be paired with the student- developed menu.


According to Alexander, the Spring Restaurant experience, as well as the school’s four-course bistro-style Winter Restaurant offering, “give the students real-world experience. Spring Restaurant is where the rubber hits the road; the competence in skills that the students have built over nine months of intensive training is reflected in a polished, fine-dining degustation menu, on which we receive copious accolades. For the 1000+ diners who attend, it is an amazing feat of competence; for the students, it is a stamp of approval that boosts their confidence before they embark on their exciting new careers.”


The Napa Valley Cooking School also offers evening and weekend Food and Wine Enthusiast cooking classes for non-professionals looking to deepen their culinary knowledge—and have fun while doing it.

- Edible Marin & Wine Country