Kick start your next Hilton Head Island Vacation at the Culinary Arts Center

Chef Jen Welper assists students at their work stations. Photo courtesy Culinary Arts Center, Hilton Head Health.

Summer is right here, and we’re making a vow to prioritize our health. But of course, it’s easier said than done. How many bland kale salads and juice cleanse shakes can we consume in a week? I know I am starving for some fresh creativity in the kitchen. Enter: the Culinary Arts Center at Hilton Head Health.

Culinary Arts Center cooking classes showcase flavorful, fresh and many times local ingredients that inspire your own inner top chef while keeping an eye on the calorie count. I recently had the opportunity to experience a participatory class in their beautiful newly renovated space, which opened last summer. The class was called “Seafood 101” and while, honestly I thought I was well versed in most seafood dishes, Chef Jen Welper and her lovely recipes and preparations, proved you can teach an old dog new tricks. And what delicious ‘tricks’ they were!

We also prepared a snapper fillet with a tangy and tasty sesame ginger marinade (we used it as a sauce here). Delicious.

The class began with a sit down at the expansive demonstration area where we learned about what types of seafood we would be working with as well as some techniques to expedite some kitchen ‘chores’ such as the proper way to hold a knife and evenly chop vegetables like an onion. I am familiar with that one, but then Chef Jen gave us a demo on crushing garlic using a chef’s knife, chopping board and some pent up frustration. Being that peeling, mincing or crushing garlic is not one of my favorite things I am elated over this technique and now no garlic clove is safe in my kitchen! Chef Jen also explained the term “mise en place” and I am familiar with this term, as it is how I prefer to cook or rather, prepare to cook. Literally it means “everything in place”, which in culinary terms translates to organizing and arranging the ingredients that you need to prepare a specific dish for both efficiency and ease.

The demonstration area of the Culinary Arts Center “classroom”. It is beautiful and functional.Photo courtesy of Culinary Arts Center, Hilton Head Health.

After our sit-down overview we partnered up, advanced to a work station and began discussing our recipe plan of attack. My partner was Marie from New Jersey, who was enjoying a surprise gift from her husband of a getaway stay at Hilton Head Health for a few days. She told me she loved everything there from the fitness and nutrition classes to the SELF (Stress management, Empowerment, Longevity, Fulfillment) group discussions. While Marie was participating in a program and staying onsite at Hilton Head Health, Culinary Arts Center classes and demonstrations are open to everyone – just reserve your spot as classes do fill up quickly.

In this class on seafood we were able to mix and match sauces with different seafood – shrimp, scallops and several types of fish including snapper and salmon. We prepared our mise en place and began by making “Bang Bang Shrimp” – a favorite of both of ours. It was a relatively simple exercise making the spicy, sweet sauce and the Panko-coated shrimp were quickly baked in the oven. Next we prepared a sesame ginger marinade (which we used as a sauce) for a succulent, mild snapper fillet that we pan seared and finished in the oven. Lastly we gave shrimp scampi (and that garlic smashing technique) a try – it was also quite delicious. Marie mentioned that she has been making scampi for many years based on her mother’s recipe and was excited to now have a healthier but just as delicious, version of a family favorite.

The final recipe we prepared was shrimp scampi – light, garlicky, and lemony – just perfect!

What a great experience I had on that Saturday afternoon! The instructors, the food, the facilities and the camaraderie were excellent and I truly hope to attend more classes or a demonstration – and bring along a friend – this year. In life they’re always more to learn and when it comes to healthy cooking there’s no better place than the Culinary Arts Center at Hilton Head Health on Hilton Head Island!

Upcoming classes/demonstrations on my radar are a Chef’s Table featuring ‘local catch’ seafood and seasonal, local produce, an introduction to using herbs in August. Other classes that sure to be on the fall calendar include ‘American Grillin’’, ‘Southern Comfort Cuisine’, ‘Knife Skills & Stir Fry’ and ‘Chocolate Lovers’. Check out more on their website as the classes and demonstrations are updated and added frequently. I was told to look out for the ‘Chef’s Secrets Series’ too, where local chefs share their favorite dishes in cooking demonstrations at the CAC.

The “Bang Bang Shrimp” recipe was really simple to prepare once we gathered and organized our “mise en place”.

Bang Bang Shrimp

Culinary Arts Center at Hilton Head Health

Bang Bang Sauce:

½ cup orange marmalade

¼ cup sweet chili glaze

¼ cup water

¼ tsp. Red pepper flakes

Panko shrimp (below)

Preheat a medium saucepan. Mix all ingredients (except the shrimp) in the saucepan until sauce is well mixed and warm. Toss in the cooked hot panko shrimp until coated. Note: we served our sauce on the side. Serve immediately.

Panko Shrimp:

6 shrimp per person peeled, deveined (21/25s size)

½ cup Panko Bread crumbs (Japanese bread crumbs)

¼ cup Egg Beaters or just egg whites

¼ tsp. ground black pepper

¼ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In one bowl place Panko crumbs, pepper and salt. Mix lightly. In a separate bowl place Egg Beaters. Dip each shrimp in Egg Beaters, then toss each shrimp in the Panko crumbs. Spray baking sheet or pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place shrimp on baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss with Bang Bang sauce and serve!