UNTIL RECENTLY, COOKING FEARLESSLY IN MY kitchen meant adding a few chopped vegetables to tomato sauce. But thanks to a class at Hudson’s on the Bend Cooking School, where “cooking fearlessly” is the philosophy of its namesake Austin restaurant, I have diced, sliced, and sauteed my way to a new identity as a culinary adventurer.

Along with three dozen other participants, I spent a Sunday afternoon watching Chef Jeff Blank and Chef Robert Rhoades prepare a four-course meal at an outdoor kitchen in the backyard of Chef Blank’s elegant Hill Country home overlooking Lake Austin. Upon arrival, the chefs greeted us with a fuchsia prickly pear margarita. The demonstration started with dessert first. As we watched and asked questions, the chefs prepared rhubarb-berry compote and a lemon cake with a lemon buttercream frosting.

Then they prepared other dishes: eggplant slices stuffed with ricotta cheese and topped with crab in an heirloom-tomato sauce, hot-and-crunchy green tomatoes, and a pork tenderloin injected with watermelon salsa . “You have 11,000 taste buds in your mouth,” Chef Blank said, “and our job as chefs is to activate them all at once.”

After hearing various ingredients sizzle on the stove and smelling the aroma of cilantro and lemon zest blended to perfection, I was ready to put my taste buds to work. Following the demonstration, we enjoyed a lunch at nearby Hudson’s on the Bend restaurant-featuring all the courses from the class and a choice of wines.

I left feeling full, fearless, and ready to fire up my own stove. Now if I can just find an outdoor kitchen overlooking the lake, I am set. Call 512/ 266-7655; www.hudsonsonthebend.com.

From the April 2010 issue

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