Some of the best memories in life happen around the dinner table. It is where bread is broken and our bellies cease to growl, where elbows hit the tablecloth and no one notices because the conversation is too good and the laughter too loud. It is where we share and commune and interact with those we hold dear.
Now imagine expanding that same table to include a few strangers—actually, let’s call them “not-friends-yet”—a bowl of farm fresh eggs, a pile of flour and a generous instructor. That is the scene that played out recently at a Friday night pasta-making class held in the Kessler Cooking School at the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Mountain Brook Village. At 6 p.m., more than a dozen students trickled into the glass-walled classroom, some in pairs, some in groups, some from the neighborhood and some from adjacent hotel rooms. While Chef Joshua Towey made a few last-minute checks at the stove, a server greeted us and took beverage orders. A casual antipasto spread in one corner of the room let us know we should snack but not spoil our appetites, and we each found a spot at the table.
With pasta water simmering and mise en place attended to, Chef Towey greeted the assembled students and led us through the evening’s syllabus of sorts. We’d be working together to make fresh pasta that would be formed into paper-thin sheets. We would also be making hand-turned ravioli and farfalle noodles from scratch. By this point, we felt compelled to roll up our sleeves and truly dive in. We broke into groups where some guests fed fresh egg yolks into the tube of a running food processor. The dough came together quickly and without too much effort, which had everyone wondering why we ever buy store-bought noodles in the first place! Another group circled up around the pasta machine and learned how to pass the fresh dough through the plates, keeping the dough pliable. Soon several of us set about piping a butternut squash puree filling into the ravioli die, layering on a second sheet of pasta and crimping the edges just so.
Many hands make light work, and we fell into an easy rhythm. Introducing ourselves to one another came naturally, and it was a delight to learn all the different means through which our fellow students came to class. There was the family of five from Houston, in town to attend the Porsche Driving School. This pasta-making class was the perfect way to unwind from a day on the track. There was the mother-daughter pair, taking in some long overdue time together. A young married couple was clearly enjoying a rare date night, and I could almost swear I saw them recreate the spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp, stealing a kiss between cranks of the pasta roller. The group of women in personalized red chef’s toques were easily identifiable as a terrific Girls Night Out squad.
Soon enough, our pasta making was complete and we joined Chef Towey around the stove, as he pulled together the remainder of the meal. The aromas of roasting Brussels sprouts, pancetta and onions were heady, and we were all more than a little hungry! In no time at all, we were soon ladling heaping spoonsful of Pasta Carbonara and Pumpkin Seed Pesto-Filled Ravioli into deep bowls. A shower of fresh Parmiggiano-Reggiano on top quickly melted into an edible savory cloud. Bellies full and as the end of class drew near, we bid our new friends farewell and all promised to try our hand at pasta making at home very soon. At the very least, we knew we’d be back for another class with Chef Towey.
Meet the Chef
Birmingham native Joshua Towey has been cooking professionally for more than years. After studying hotel and restaurant management at Auburn University, he went on to complete his culinary degree at The French Culinary Institute (now known as the International Culinary Center) in New York City. Upon returning to Birmingham, he joined the ranks at Hot & Hot Fish Club and later moved to the kitchen at Bottega Restaurant—all further cultivating his love of working with fresh pasta, seafood and a wood-fired grill. After working as the restaurant sous chef at the Renaissance Ross Bridge Hotel & Resort for two years, Towey returned to Hot & Hot Fish Club, where he was sous chef and later chef de cuisine.
Today, as the chef at the Cooking School at The Grand Bohemian, Chef Towey enjoys the culinary creativity of being in a hands-on kitchen, balanced with a schedule that allows him ample family time with his wife, Brittney, and their children Katelyn and Jonah.
Attend a Class
The best way to see what’s new at the Grand Bohemian Cooking School is to check out their offerings online. Chef Towey is always developing new classes while maintaining the ones guests have come to love and attend over and over.