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Just like Mother still makes

A new cooking school fires a shot across the bow of our celebrity-chef culture.

Is it a coincidence that so many professional chefs around here—at the top of the heap is James Syhabout of both elegant Commis and down-home Hawker Fare—cite their mothers as their main influence? After spending time abroad, Jennifer López and Abby Sturges didn’t think so, which is why they went straight to the source to start their ethnic cooking-class company, Culture Kitchen SF. “At home, these chefs are just ‘Mom,’” López says, “but in their classes, they’re the experts.” The venture was adopted last spring by the Silicon Balley incubator company, 500 Startups, and began offering classes last year on the Peninsula. Last month month, it relaunched in San Francisco. Meet some of the chefs, and hear what they think even sophisticated local foodies need to learn about ethnic cuisine.

Suchitra Rangnekar
From: Mumbai, India
What Americans don’t know: “Northern and southern Indian food are prominent in the United States, but people hardly know anything about west and east India. There’s more to Indian food than chicken tikka masala!”
Signature dish: Crab curry

Paloma Salazar
From: Guadalajara, Mexico
What Americans don’t know: “The flavor of ‘American’ Mexican food is not right. For example, enchiladas are made with tomatoes in restaurants, but in traditional enchiladas you don’t put tomatoes in the dish—you place them on top.”
Signature dish: Chiles en nogada

Baraka Abdalhadi
From: Baghdad, Iraq
What Americans don’t know: “A lot! Most don’t know that kabobs and dolmas are Iraqi, and much Iraqi food is very old, and some recipes can take five or six hours to make, which is too long for our modern culture.”
Signature dish: Dolmas

Linh Nguyen
From: Saigon, Vietnam
What Americans don’t know: “Most Vietnamese people think Americans won’t eat fish sauce, so they leave it out or choose dishes that don’t have it. If you do like it, put it out there that fish sauce is A-OK!”
Signature dish: Egg rolls