Gaynor Grant spends more time in the kitchen than the average person, but her kitchen is large and she often has lots of company.
At Gaynor’s School of Cooking, located on the South Side of Pittsburgh, students range in age and experience, but all are welcome. In fact, Grant’s favorite class to teach is the "Art of Fine Cooking" for beginners.
For almost eight years, Pittsburgh cooks and those aspiring to become more astute in the kitchen have flocked to Gaynor’s School of Cooking to learn techniques or to master preparing a specific type of food from Asian cuisine to a more local favorite — pierogi.
In February 2003, Grant, a Sewickley resident who hails from the United Kingdom, opened the doors of her cooking school in Sewickley. Just two years later, the building was foreclosed and Grant decided to move the school to the South Side, where she now has a more diverse group of students from all over the city. While Grant opened her cooking school only eight years ago, she has been cooking for most of her life.
“My mom made mostly everything from scratch,” said Grant, “particularly at holiday times. Food was a major focus at our house. You were never allowed to be late to dinner!”
Because she enjoyed growing up in a food-oriented environment, Grant decided to study hotel and catering management. After the first year, however, she decided to study history instead, as she enjoyed only the catering portion of hotel and catering management.
A few years later, Grant moved to New Jersey with her husband, Dan, who was on a two-year assignment. When he found out he had to stay, “I didn’t know what to do with myself,” said Grant.
“Once I knew we were going to stay for a longer period of time, I wasn’t going to carry on babysitting,” she said. “I realized I always had enjoyed cooking, so I decided to enroll in Peter Kump’s New York School of cooking.”
Grant became a star student while studying with Kump, founder of the well-known Institute of Culinary Education. After she graduated, Kump promoted her to school director. She later opened a satellite school near her home in New Jersey. She then carried her passion for cooking with her a few years later to Sewickley, where she has lived ever since with her husband and three children.
At Gaynor’s School of Cooking, students can enroll in classes such as bread baking, couples nights, wine-tasting and technique-building. Most classes are five-week courses and take place one night per week.
“Along with getting a wider variety of students now that the studio is in the South Side, I get the opportunity to do a lot more corporate events,” Grant said.
Local companies will ask Grant to prepare programs ranging from catering to team-building activities for their employees. That is another aspect of her job that she enjoys.
The best part, however, is watching her students learn basic techniques in the "Art of Fine Cooking" classes.
“This five-week series really teaches you how to cook,” Grant said. “It’s technique, rather than menu-driven. Even if a student never takes another cooking class, the 'Art of Fine Cooking' is enough to cover the basics,” said Grant.
“So when they leave here, I know that they can at least go home and cook for themselves and their families. That gives me a real sense of achievement.”