Culinary education at the Sonoma Community Center

Sonoma Community Center staff and board are eager to move the center into a true community role in Sonoma.

With a certified kitchen remodeled several years ago by Rotary of Sonoma Valley, there is great opportunity for classes and meals, all of which is a long way from Ken Brown’s Center of the Universe Café in the 1980s where dinner cost $5 and the décor consisted of Madras bedspreads hanging on the walls.

Elise Gonzales-Sahota, who grew up on Sonoma and lived in the Indian side of the Himalayas for 10 years, will lead the program as Culinary Arts Director. She apparently just walked in, suggested it and got the job, not knowing a Culinary Center had been proposed there several times in the last four years.

Gonzales-Sahota is organizing classes in food as medicine using Ayurveda practices and principles, children’s cooking classes, the Art of Dumpling Making with a Chinese expert, and a series of masters classes on weekends starting with an Indigenous chef.

As ideas formulate, she plans an “Around the World Series” that will be a year round program that will feature a new chef every month from a different country with four monthly classes on Tuesdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The first guest chef, Cristina Topham from Spread Catering, will be teaching Plant-Based Lebanese cooking starting Jan. 4.

Gonzales-Sahota also plans “Food is Medicine” workshops with monthly four hour sessions “that will dive into different ways to heal and give self-care to your body through food medicine. From Ayurveda to Paleo, guests will learn different ways that the world uses food to remedy bodily ailments.

This idea excites me as a former president of the board who helped save the building by getting it listed in the National Register of Historic Places when the then city manager proposed to tear it down and divide the property into 11 residential lots.

More info will be coming soon at

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