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If I had to sum up the holiday season in three words it’d be: give, receive, food (not necessarily in that order). When you really boil it down, the end of the year is chock full of gift exchanges and gluttony at every turn and setting — Yankee swap at work (with food), secret Santa party at school (with food) and a white elephant party at home (with a feast). But what about making food the actual gift and offering that gift as a unique thrill for both receiver and giver?

The Simple Abundance cooking class series is so much more than knife skills and famously talented chefs (which, don’t get me wrong, are a major part). These premier classes are created and run through the Atlanta Community Food Bank (ACFB). Celebrating food on every level is the core of ACFB’s Simple Abundance, as 100 percent of the class proceeds benefit one of Atlanta’s major agencies to end hunger.

The talented women from the Atlanta chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International taught my class, which was all about new takes on classic Southern food.

So altruism and kindness aside, let’s get into the details of this amazing cooking series. The classes occur about four times per year; however, November and December each feature holiday-themed classes that not only focus on food but also entertaining, wine pairings and hosting duties. In order for each teacher/chef to really show off his or her talent and have enough space for all the students and foodies to witness creative genius in action, each class is held at one of three The Cook’s Warehouse locations, inside their state-of-the-art kitchen spaces (Midtown/Ansley Mall, Peachtree Station or East Cobb). Here’s the really cool part — many of the classes aren’t just taught by one master chef; usually there’s a group of culinary geniuses showing off their skills and recipes.

So what’s on tap for this holiday season? ACFB recently announced their two winter Simple Abundance classes, and they are killer. This first is on Monday, November 12: Thanksgiving with Chef Virginia Willis & Friends. Learn about Southern cooking from the queen as chef Virginia Willis and a few of her amazing chef friends cook wonderful dishes like lionfish ceviche, Meme’s cornbread, sweet potato gratin, fried apple hand pies … sorry, need to regroup as I just started drooling on the keyboard. Or, head out on Monday, December 3 for A Basque Holiday Celebration. During the last class of 2018, The Cook’s Warehouse founder and owner, chef Mary Moore, joins chef Nealey Thompson and sommelier Don Hackett for the ultimate food and wine class, with a Spanish angle. The menu includes pisto manchego, ham croquettes, lamb-stuffed peppers and so many more tapas … each dish paired with a carefully selected regional wine.

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The class I attended this summer started off with a certified cheese expert showcasing some of her favorite cheeses — what type of milk they come from, where they originate and what makes them so special. I just saw happiness on a plate.

Chef Kevin Gillespie, of Gunshow and Revival, is just one of the revered culinary geniuses who has participated in the Simple Abundance series. These chefs donate their time, talent and resources in order to help the Atlanta Community Food Bank (ACFB). Image: ACFB

Every Simple Abundance class takes place at one of three The Cook’s Warehouse locations. Their state-of-the-art kitchens not only have ample space for multiple cooks but helpful technology like screens to help us students see what exactly our teacher is up to.

I went to a Simple Abundance class back in June, and I had no idea what to expect. Obviously, if you follow me on StyleBlueprint, you know I love to eat, but cooking my own stuff is another story. (I stand by the use of the word “stuff” when it comes to my own culinary creations.) That’s what’s great about this cooking series — it’s mostly demonstration-based as chefs prepare a sample of recipes. I definitely celebrated girl power at my class, as it was led and taught by seven women of the Atlanta chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International, a worldwide society of women dedicated to creating a culture that celebrates and promotes women in culinary professions. You guys, besides the great food and inspiring message, we sipped on two fruity cocktails and had a cheese course (I’m that easy to wine win over).

Each class lasts about two and a half hours with ticket prices starting at $85. And remember, 100 percent of the proceeds benefit ACFB. Seriously, it’s pure profit — the chefs not only donate their time and talent, but they also bring their own ingredients, and The Cook’s Warehouse donates space in the three aforementioned locations. And besides getting to try delish dishes (and take home recipes) and fangirling upon meeting Hugh Acheson, Ford Fry, Kevin Gillespie and Lipton Hopkins, among others, there are some killer door prizes. I actually won a cartoonishly massive bottle of wine at the class I attended in June … don’t worry, Mom, I returned it so the ACFB could use it again for a future prize.

I won’t go into the details of the Atlanta Community Food Bank in this article, but suffice it to say, it’s a wonderful place doing so much good for our neighbors (learn more on their website or better yet, volunteer). The people who work there are helping hungry families every day of the year — keep in mind that hunger in summer is just as bleak and dangerous as hunger during the holiday season. And as a way to wrap your mind around the important work they do, ACFB distributes more than 56 million meals to people struggling with hunger each year.

Get the details about the upcoming Simple Abundance fall and winter classes on the website as well as details on how to register. If your holiday season is too jam-packed with cookies, relatives and shopping, remember that the Simple Abundance series runs throughout the year. Or better yet, take a class AND volunteer/donate at ACFB whenever your calendar looks open.

Learn more about Simple Abundance and the Atlanta Community Food Bank by emailing [email protected], calling 404-892-FEED (3333) x1248 or visiting acfb.org/simple-abundance.

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