Collinsville Herald: Cooking Classes Focus on Practical, Exotic

Featured in the Collinsville Herald Newspaper, Collinsville,Illinois

Cooking classes focus on practical, exotic
Tea room chef passes along skills

By Mike Terry
Wednesday, July 15, 2009 1:18 AM CDT

Whether it’s how to slice an onion without bringing tears to the eyes or what spices bring out the right flavor in Indian barbecue, Jane Muscroft has a seemingly endless supply of cooking advice stored in her brain.

For the last few months, the chef has been letting those tips out through monthly cooking classes at the Oatman House Tea Room Restaurant in Collinsville.

She has already grabbed several regular followers who said they are thrilled with their newfound ability to serve up nutritious entrees, soups and pastries.

“It’s a dying art,” said Muscroft, of Glen Carbon, adding that most folks have forgotten about home cooked meals and rely on pre-packaged meals and fast food. “It isn’t hard. You just have to want to do it and make the time.”

Because of space restraints and her own hands-on style, Muscroft requires advanced booking and allows no more than 12 people per class. She normally likes to create five new seasonal dishes for each session, taking time to pass them around after each step so students can more easily remember the consistency and appearance.

“I always make everything from scratch,” she said. “That way they can see the whole procedure, go home and recreate it time and time again.”

Caseyville’s Patty Cannon has been coming to the classes since they started.

“I like the way she teaches,” she said. “It’s not like out of a textbook, but like a plain person.”

After class, Cannon likes to take the recipes home and try out the best ones on her family members.

“Everything I’ve made everybody likes,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun. You do learn things and you get a nice dinner when it’s all done.”

Born and raised in England, Muscroft moved to the United States in 2000 and began teaching cooking classes for the grocery store chain Dierbergs. Last year, she opened her own catering business, Queen’s Cuisine, which specializes in private tea parties done in the traditional English style.

The business, which uses the kitchen at Oatman House, has been featured on local television shows such as “Show Me St. Louis” and “Great Day St. Louis.”

Muscroft said she would like to expand her classroom teaching skills in the future, where she could better utilize her hands-on style. One of her goals is to hook up with a local school district and teach teenage students about cooking, especially with ideas they could use after going off to college.

The next classes at the Oatman House are July 30 and Aug. 5 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Courses will include lessons on how to make homemade ice cream and lemonade, spicy gazpacho soup and peach chutney.

Learn more

What: Oatman House Tea Room Cooking Classes

Where: 501 E. Main St., Collinsville

Cost: $25 per person

For more information, call 205-6188 or e-mail

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