Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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EatBeat: Publix Apron’s Cooking School, Kona Grill, Quick Bites

November 19th, 2008 · 3 Comments

 Publix Teaches at Apron’s

I visited Publix’s new Apron’s Cooking School in Boca recently and had a tasty lunch, thanks to the instructors demo-ing the new school.

This is the first in Southeast Florida; there are four others — in Tampa, Sarasota, Jacksonville and Atlanta.

Apron's features overhead cameras

The school’s the result of marketing studies by Publix, in the ’90s restaurant revolution, that showed that 75 percent of their store customers said they’d cook more at home if they had “new ideas,” for “simple meal preparation.” Time was a factor, as it is now, though food costs may rank just as high today.

From a small program of simple meal suggestions in the stores, along with convenience products such as vegetables and cheeses already cut or cubed, or packges of meats prepared for fast cooking, Publix went beyond suggestions in stores, to hands-on demos and now full-blown cooking instruction in stand-alone shops. Soon, they say, they’ll experiment with meal-preparation stores.

At Apron’s, classes will range from techniques (knife skills, or roasting a turkey and making the dressing) to a “girls’ night out” class — a taste of French cuisine for groups of women. Wine pairing classes, special holiday and seasonal foods and kids’ classes are part of the extensive schedule that changes monthly.

Dishes demoed for managers at Apron's opening. Photo by Jan Norris

At the media-demo day, chefs brought in from other Apron’s for the day demoed adult grilled cheese and gazpacho, a steak salad in a crispy Parmesan basket, and a baked apple crisp for dessert. The demos went quickly, but a good deal of practical info and technique tips were passed along in the short space of time. In the intimate setting, students can ask questions of the pros, and recipes are distributed with every class.

A shop in the front of the school has tools, some high-quality cookware, and a good selection of cookbooks for sale. Situated in the same plaza as Publix, students can shop for foods they’ve learned at the class.

Proper way to hold a chef's knife/photo by Jan Norris

Class structure varies: Some are hands-on, and students will gather around the large counter and help prep foods for the class that includes a meal; others are simply demos — cameras are strategically placed so everyone in the room can watch as the chef works. For more intensive learning, there are series of classes — three once-a-week themed sessions. Seafood basics is one, for example, from shopping to preparing the fish and then cooking it using various methods.

 Private group lessons can be arranged — a list of topics that are available for bridal showers, or birthday parties or kids’ events.  Celebrity chefs and authors will make appearances for book signings or demos, as well.

The class schedule at Apron’s can be picked up at the store, or is available online at Publix Apron’s web site. Costs are from $35 (demos) to $150 (series).

  •  Publix Apron’s Cooking School
  • 5050 Champioin Blvd., Boca Raton (in the Polo Shoppes plaza)
  • (561) 994-4883; www.publix.com/aprons

Kona Grill: East Meets West

The latest stylish food spot at CityPlace is the Kona Grill. The chain from Austin, TX, sounds sort of like PF Chang crossed with the Cheesecake Factory. Their web site touts cuisine and style as “East Meets West.”

Something on the menu should appeal to every diner out there —  the Kona Grill has sushi, potstickers, and tuna tataki for Asian seekers; tacos and a chili-glazed salmon salad for the Tex-Mex’ers, pizza and pasta for Bootfood lovers, “Big Island” meatloaf, baby back ribs, burgers and steak for red-blooded Americans. What sets Kona Grill’s foods apart are the wide variety of sauces and sides served with them — all housemade, they claim. White cheddar mashed potatoes, sauteed baby bok choy, coconut curry vinaigrette, chipotle cream sauce are examples.

Prices run the gamut — at dinner, a couple of pieces of sushi are $4 or $5 and potstickers are $7.95; a pepperoni pizza is $9.75; a plate of pad Thai is $12.25, and a 10-ounce fillet with sides is $30. I really like the Sunday brunch menu that had me at little cinnamon-sugar donut bites for $4.95; their egg dishes are good looking and fair-priced, too.

There’s a kid’s menu and lunch menu with plenty of salads and soups for lighter eaters. Full bar; beautiful cool blue lights/wood atmosphere.

  • Kona Grill
  • 700 Rosemary Ave. (CityPlace), West Palm Beach
  • (561) 253-7900; www.konagrill.com
  • Open for lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday; special brunch and dinner on Sundays.

 Quick bites:



Roy villacrusis

Roy villacrusis

Don Ramon

Cuban restaurant is slated to open another link in its chain in the former Hoboken Grill space in Old Northwood.  . . . PA BBQ celebrates its 20th anniversary the first week in December, and offers ’80s pricing for that week, including $9.99 baby back dinners and 69-cent iced tea. . . Burt Rapaport (Henry’s in Delray Beach)  is teaming with chef Roy Villacrusis, formerly of Mark’s CityPlace, to open an Asian bistro in the old Sushi Rok space on Olive Avenue in downtown West Palm Beach. . . .



Chef Johnny Vinczencz of Johnny V in Fort Lauderdale is soon to open Smith & Jones Bar and Grill on East Las Olas; contemporary takes on comfort food will be dished up here. Diners in Delray Beach may remember Vinczencz from the Sundy House there.  . . .

Todd English

Celeb chef Todd English (Olives in Charlestown, Mass., Figs in New York City, among others) has opened da Campo Osteria in the il Lugano Hotel in For Lauderdale, with Northern Italian cuisine the focus.

Tags: The Eat Beat: Restaurant News

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Guy Schnaars // Feb 10, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Very interested in becoming an instructor. Please let me know where I may send my resume for review.

    Thaank you for your time.
    Guy Schnaars

  • 2 Calley Sprague // Aug 10, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Guy I am hoping you get a email to the effect someone else commented, any way give me a call.. or email me calley_sprague@comcast.net

  • 3 Katie- beyer // Sep 16, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    This is great for all chef wanna be’s. Bookmarked and recommended.

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