Being Schooled 

The Viking Culinary Arts Center closed its doors downtown last spring and recently reopened as the Viking Cooking School -- a one-stop shop that is a combo cooking school/appliance center/kitchen-gadget store -- at Park Place Mall, near St. Francis Hospital in East Memphis.

Other Viking Culinary Arts Centers around the country will be turned into cooking schools for the home chef as well, but the Memphis location is unique: It is the only school/shop owned by Viking. Additional schools will be established following a franchise model.

Christopher Green, the school's manager, came to Memphis by way of Scottsdale, Arizona. Green's first career was as a newspaper editor in Jacksonville, Florida. "I knew that if I ever decided to change careers, I would go to culinary school," Green explains. The day he made good on his promise, Green found himself at L'Academie de Cuisine in Washington,

click to enlarge Christopher Green
  • Christopher Green
D.C. He stayed in D.C. for a while working in local restaurants and as a private chef. He eventually got recruited to lead the L'Academie's recreational school. He then moved to Arizona to work at Kitchen Classics, a family-owned cooking school. He only came to Memphis because a friend said he needed to check it out.

"I came here just to visit last October and noticed Viking downtown but didn't really think much of it," Green says. "But then I really liked Memphis, and thought, Well, why not give it a shot?" On a whim, Green called the Culinary Arts Center to find out if they had any openings, not knowing that the day before the center had run an ad looking for a school manager. "I really was excited about living downtown, and even though that didn't work out as planned, the school's new space is absolutely great," Green says.

The store is filled with jaw-dropping, wallet-emptying appliances and gadgets, and you can check out what's cooking in the state-of-the-art kitchen through a large window in the store. The school offers a variety of hands-on cooking classes, demo classes, "Six Around the Stove" classes (a hands-on class for just six students, similar to a chef's table dinner), and a free "Lunch and Learn" session from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays for up to 21 students. (Students must bring their own lunch.) All classes require prior registration.

For a class schedule, visit the store or go to

Viking Cooking School, 1215 Ridgeway (763-3747)

Have you heard the buzz around town? Paula Deen, aka the "Queen of Southern Cooking," is coming to Memphis, and you'll have more than one chance to see her in action. Deen will be taping her Food Network show, Paula's Home Cooking, at the Mid-South Fair on Thursday and Friday, September 28th and 29th.

Deen gained national recognition for her unique approach to such Southern classics as shrimp and grits, Savannah crab cakes, and chicken pot pie. Deen and her sons, Jamie and Bobby, own The Lady & Sons restaurant in Savannah, Georgia, a business that evolved over 15 years from a lunch-delivery service (known as the Bag Lady), which Deen operated out of her house, to the 330-seat restaurant that has diners waiting in line for hours.

If you want more than just a look at Paula Deen's cuisine, head to the Viking Cooking School, where she's helping celebrate its opening by holding a cooking demonstration and tasting, followed by a booksigning on Saturday, September 30th.

Later that evening, at The Peabody's Capriccio Grill, Deen will host a four-course dinner, mingle with guests, and share a few of her favorite Southern recipes. The menu includes several choices for each course. The entrée selection features such favorites as barbecued short ribs with corn and chive pudding and okra fritters, Southern-fried chicken with sweet-potato casserole and collard greens, and red snapper stuffed with crabmeat and served with spicy tomato red rice and turnip Dijon sauce.

Paula Deen is at the Mid-South Fair on Thursday, September 28th, at 7 p.m. and on Friday, September 29th, at 2:30 p.m.Tickets are $25, $40, and $50 and are available through Ticketmaster.

Deen's cooking demonstration and tasting at Viking is from 10 to 11 a.m. Space is limited to 30. To reserve a spot, call763-3747. Cost for the class is $150 and includes a cookbook. Those planning on attending the booksigning from 11 a.m. to noon must purchased a book in-store.

Dinner with Paula Deen at Capriccio Grill, 149 Union, Saturday, September 30th, 5-9:30 p.m. Cost per person is $150. For reservations, call 529-4199.

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