Get your whisks and mixers ready: L’Academie de Cuisine’s popular Bethesda school, which holds a host of recreational cooking classes and private events, is reopening on Monday, April 25 after being closed nearly a year for renovation. The cooking school, founded in 1976 by Francois Dionot, also has a location in Gaithersburg which offers professional culinary programs.
The building on 5021 Wilson Lane, built sometime in the 1930s, was gutted during this go-round, according to the founder’s daughter, Clarice Dionot, who manages the recreational cooking division. I got a tour of the space yesterday, and it was still abuzz with painters, carpenters and helpers unpacking boxes and putting things in place.
But the result will be a gleaming, new-looking facility, with lots of Viking ranges and ovens, a larger vestibule, spacious offices and an airy, bright feel.
The demonstration classroom on the first floor has been redone, with space for up to 26 students, and there are now two participation classrooms—one where the old participation kitchen used to be, and another in the space that housed Café Bethesda, the restaurant formerly run by the school. More participation classrooms will give the school a lot more flexibility—particularly when it comes to offering more sessions of the most popular classes, such as basic knife skills, couples cooking and cake decorating, says Clarice Dionot. There will also be more space for private parties and summer camp students.
Along the way, Dionot says there were “a lot” of unanticipated glitches, bureaucratic snafus, and discoveries, including finding a charred wall, the result of a long-ago fire. The Washington Suburban Sanitation Commission required the school to condense its three water lines into one, which necessitated digging up Wilson Lane. The WSSC also told the Dionots they had to remove an abandoned water line that hadn’t been used for years, but the county said it would mean repaving an entire section of Cordell Avenue. They were able to get out of that one.
Francois Dionot is teaching “The French Experience,” the first class in the new demonstration classroom—on Monday morning from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. There are still spaces available. Call 301-986-9490, or visit www.lacademie.com.