Can You Handle the Heat?

Lisa Renze-Rhodes

Weekend warrioring takes on a decidedly different feel for foodies in Central Indiana looking for a fun way to diversify their interests. 

At the Nestle Inn in Downtown Indianapolis, participants in weekend cooking classes immerse themselves into the sights, sounds and oh-so-delicious smells of food.

Whether it’s the unmistakable aroma of freshly baked breads conjuring a grandma’s kitchen, the mouth-watering savory richness of garlic, or specialty cuisine such as Thai, guests have an opportunity to relax into meal prep.

Expert chefs bring not only a passion for food to the kitchen, but culinary education experience that adapts to participants’ skill levels, from casual beginners to master home cooks.

An overnight stay isn’t required to participate in the classes, which are $75 per person, but owner and innkeeper Leesa Smith said the packages are a great way to make the most of the experience.  “It works out great because they help make the food and then they eat the food after the class,” Smith said. “They can then can go out and play on Mass Ave.”

The inn — one part of which dates back to the late 1800s — is located in the historic Chatham-Arch neighborhood, just steps away from one of the city’s six designated cultural neighborhoods, the Mass Ave Arts District.

There visitors can find such things as shops offering unique gifts or specialty chocolates, small bars serving up craft cocktails, comedy clubs and live theater. 

“Then the next morning, they get a voucher from us to have breakfast at either Henry’s Coffee Bistro or Coat Check Coffee as it is included in their room rate,” Smith said. “So they get two good experiences — one at the Inn and one on Mass Ave as part of their stay.”

In addition to the regular line up of cooking classes, the Nestle Inn kitchen will also offer several special “Dickens of a Christmas” High Tea experiences in December with Tina Jesson, owner of Tina’s Traditional English Tea Room (locations in Carmel and Columbus, Indiana). No actual cooking instruction will take place – guests instead can sit back and enjoy two hours of tea, sandwiches, scones, clotted cream and other English treats.

If you’re looking to pack in a wide variety of experiences during your weekend of culinary adventures, try Katsumi’s Teaching Kitchen, also in Indianapolis.

Owner Mori Willhite specializes in Japanese homestyle cooking and says authentic meals don’t have to be difficult to make.  “My mother is Japanese, so we grew up eating real Japanese food,” Willhite said. “I try to be respectful and accurate to the Japanese culture — to show clients the when, where, how, what, and why of Japanese cooking so they can easily replicate the dishes at home,” she said.

Willhite says her classes are popular as a date night or a girls’ night out. Sushi making, tempura and even chopstick etiquette are among the choices for guests, who she said enjoy trying something new and acquiring a new skill. Classes average $70 per person.

“Most people are surprised and happy on how easy it is to make great tasting Japanese food,” she said.

More information on Nestle Inn: 637 N. East St., Indianapolis, (317) 610-5200,

More information on Katsumi’s Teaching Kitchen: 6446 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, (317) 431-4153,


Lisa Renze-Rhodes is a writer living in Indianapolis, Indiana.