By Nina Silberstein
After working as a pastry chef and then a chef instructor at a local culinary school for years, Meredith Mortensen opened Cookshop, at 2627 SE Clinton St., in May 2018.
While she enjoyed teaching, Mortensen wanted to offer a place where she could be more collaborative with other chefs and food industry people and create a wider variety of classes.
Cookshop offers classes for kids as young as 3 or 4 (attending with a grown up) and classes for adults. During the school year there are more adult classes on the calendar but summertime is more focused on kids with summer camps taking place two to three weeks each month.
“Our kids’ classes have been very popular and usually sell out,” Mortensen said.
They include, for example, a winter junior chef series for sixth, seventh and eighth graders where students learn kitchen basics, explore tastes and flavors and gain skills needed to nourish themselves.
There is a family bagel-making workshop; “no school” camps that offer a fun day off of cooking and crafting (first to fifth graders); after school programs and other classes where kids can learn new skills in the kitchen and try new foods.
For adults, Cookshop hosts pasta classes once a month with local pasta expert, Leta Norton, and they typically sell out as well. Other popular classes include French macaroons and a new weekend bread series.
“Any class taught by local chefs and bakers have been popular, too, like our bread class with Tim Healea (from Little T American Baker) and brisket with Melissa McMillan (from Sammich).Each of our instructors has been chosen for their expertise and passion for their craft, as well as their ability to engage and connect with their students,” she said.
“Some have years of experience cooking in restaurants, some currently work in or own restaurants or bakeries in town and others have backgrounds as nutritionists, recipe developers or culinary instructors.”
Mortensen went through a lengthy naming process to come up with Cookshop, with many potential names being fruits or specific cooking terms.
“I landed on Cookshop as a play on bookshop,” she said. “Anytime I visit new cities, I love browsing in small bookshops and feel so comfortable and at home. I wanted to translate that feeling to a kitchen studio and Cookshop seemed like the right fit. Plus, my original vision had a much more robust retail component to the business, which made Cook + Shop seem appropriate.”
While Cookshop is not open every day with regular retail hours (although Mortensen said this could change in the future), it does sell a small selection of cooking implements that tie in with classes, along with the wine served in class, cookbooks and food journals.
It also carries a line of kids’ knives made by Opinel that are legitimate, real knives scaled down for young hands. They come with a finger guard for protection and also teach proper hand position. “The kids call them shields,” she added.
The business holds several free or low-cost food-related events for the community, such as the Portland Food Swap; a monthly run club (a casual group run followed by coffee and a brief cooking demo) and a new project called Culture Club, which dives into different food fermentation and preservation projects each month.
“We also host corporate team building and offer private classes and events for things like celebrating a milestone birthday,” Mortensen said.
There’s always a few new ideas in the works. Starting in April they will offer a four-week series covering cooking basics. Each week’s class ends with a meal made by the students and shared together with wine.
“We will be teaming up again this year with Make Do art studio to teach cooking plus art camps throughout the summer,” she added.
In addition, Cookshop will be partnering with several local farms and purveyors in the future to provide the best local, seasonal ingredients for its classes.
Mortensen lives a few blocks from Cookshop and said the reception has been great. “I have loved getting to know more people in the neighborhood, especially the local business owners who have been so kind and helpful.”
Cookshop | 2627 SE Clinton St. | 503.314.6868 | portlandcookshop.com
Photo by Alexandra Celia