Dana Cohen Dishes on Her Private Cooking Classes, Past Experiences, Ambitions, and “Hell’s Kitchen”

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River Vale, New Jersey native Chef Dana Cohen is best known for being a finalist on the tenth season of the hit FOX cooking competition show “Hell’s Kitchen”. Since then her culinary career has skyrocketed to include her current private cooking classes.

Cohen travels to people’s homes for a fun filled interactive cooking experience. This is a great idea for events and occasions, such as bridal showers and kids birthday parties to name a few.

These private classes usually consist of a typical Hell’s Kitchen menu, but Cohen is happy to change it up based on what her clients desire. The class is about three hours long and includes three or four courses. A usual class is $360 for up to four people, however the prices vary depending on the amount of people and travel. Cohen gives her clients the grocery list but also brings her own food and equipment if needed. Cheaper costs include those for children, individualized cooking classes, which is a shorter class for less, and interactive demonstrations. Cohen is willing to customize her classes based on what people are capable and interested in doing.

In addition to her private cooking classes, Cohen has a very busy April ahead of her. On April 13 she will be at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida for a Food and Wine Event at Portofino Bay and on April 19 she returns to New Jersey for a cooking demonstration and cocktails at the Ramsey Country Club. This meet and great event is $65 per person.

Cohen began cooking when she was eight years old at her grandparents’ farm in Flemington where she helped her grandfather make breakfast. “I always wanted something to do, so being in the kitchen gave me that outlet.” Her signature dish is pan-seared scallops because she is a beach person at heart and loves summer and the Jersey Shore.

She was enamored with the Food Network in high school and her first restaurant related job was being a hostess at Romanza (no longer open) in River Vale. She pleaded with them to let her into the kitchen. This is where she learned the basics and got experience. She attended the University of Maryland, but then transferred to the Culinary Institute of America. One lesson she learned there is proper knife cuts, on which they spent three weeks.

Since Season 11 of “Hell’s Kitchen” premieres March 12 on FOX, our conversation took a trip down reality TV memory lane when Cohen gave me some inside scoop of her experience on the show. Surprisingly, reality TV is more “real” than we viewers anticipate.

“All of the drama is real,” says Cohen, “The show portrays the way people are and Ramsey is just as intense as he is on camera.” However, Cohen looks upon her relationship with Chef Gordon Ramsey, judge and lead chef of “Hell’s Kitchen”, with fondness and believes she received his respect from the beginning. Her highlights on the show were the individual challenges she won where she proved herself, and with these came wisdom, “You don’t have time to over think and your natural instincts kick in. You don’t know what you’re capable of until you are put in the situation.”

Being cut off from family and friends during filming, Cohen was lucky enough to befriend “Hell’s Kitchen” Season 10 winner and teammate, Christina Wilson. Cohen and Wilson still talk to this day.

Will she be watching the new season of “Hell’s Kitchen”? This is uncertain because she now has a different perspective of the show from having been a contestant, but she does have some advice for prospective chefs on and off screen nonetheless: “Keep your head in the game and stay focused. Concentrate on what you’re supposed to be doing, which is cooking.”

Although, she does hope to return to cooking for TV in the future: “I want to have my own cooking show, but that is a long term goal.”

For more about Dana Cohen, check out her website at http://www.chefdanacohen.com/. You can also like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ChefDanaCohen and follow her on Twitter @ChefDanaHK.

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