League of Kitchens

Photos and story by Emily Stephenson

This past weekend I took a cooking class at the Queens home of Dolly, who is an instructor with League of Kitchens, a New York City-based organization that connects accomplished immigrant home cooks with anyone interested in learning about other cuisines and cultures.

I had wanted to take a class for years, but, as often happens with me, somehow never got my act together. (They fill up fast, life gets in the way, etc.) That finally changed this past weekend, when I was paid back for a favor done in the form of a cooking class. A few weeks ago, my friend and I compared calendars, and I crossed-referenced menus. The classes are very vegetarian friendly, but I wanted to make up for seven years of not eating meat. So curry goat and roti it was.

What you can’t tell from this picture is that this is about 15 pounds of flour.

Dolly was born and raised in Trinidad and has lived in New York City for 15 years. She welcomed us to her home with a delicious and impressive homemade snack, then we got to work, making the standard Trinidadian seasonings used for three out of the four dishes we were going to make.

She turned bags of produce into quarts of herb puree, chile puree, and garlic puree, which was used to marinate the goat and to season the dal, channa aloo (chickpea and potato stew), and a snack of spicy green mango called mango chow. We learned you can turn any fruit into “chow.”

The goat, dal, and channa were quick to come together and simmered on back burners while we worked on the real star of the menu: roti.

Roti is a flaky flatbread eaten often (daily, in Dolly’s house) in Trinidad. It’s also a hangover favorite of mine, which I get from the roti place down my block, ideally filled with channa aloo. If you’ve never had roti, the class is worth the fee just to try it, let alone make it.

I don’t want to give any of Dolly’s secrets away, but let’s just say the secret ingredient is fat (it always is).

Five people from all over the New York City area spent six hours in the home of our magnetic and kind host learning about the history and culture of Trinidad, her life experiences in the Caribbean and as an immigrant, and a lot of cooking tips I will be employing in my own kitchen for years to come. It’s an immersion experience you can’t get in a sterile professional kitchen or cooking school. If you don’t live in New York City, bookmark League of Kitchen’s website for a future trip. I cannot recommend these classes enough, and I’m now looking at my calendar to try and find time to learn from the other instructors.

Enough roti to feed at least 20 people.

Posted in American, Behind The Scenes


  1. Brent said...

    You rock, Mark, to be open to such an experience. I’m an old guy (67 this year), a NYC veteran. Worked for Jackie OK at Doubleday. Difficult to impress. But I LOVE your attitude to new cuisines and your openness to new techniques. You’re the real deal and not a poseur. Rara avis in the age of Trump. I salute you. –Brent

    • Deb Hagy said...

      As do I. Thank you.

    • Sal Strebor said...

      In glad I read your comment, Brent. I thought I sensed something special in this man, Mark Bittman. I just stumbled into this site, looking for some interesting way to cook vegetales. BTW, 67 isn’t old – 68 is.

  2. Claire Walter said...

    Trinidad is such a cultural melting pot, as reflected by its dishes. Class sounds wonderful, and pix make it look wonderful too. And I love the League of Kirchens concept.

  3. Faydaları said...

    it looks delicious:) Thank you.

  4. Kei said...

    This class looks promising. I’d love to learn about other cuisines and cultures. Unfortunately, I’m based outside NYC. I guess I’d have to bookmark this website.

    By the way, that roti looks good.

  5. Edu said...

    looks nice

  6. John Szerszen said...

    This looks delicious. It is nice to learn cuisines from different cultures.

  7. Todd Hicks said...

    What a great way to connect those of immigrant cultures. The roti looks appetizing.

  8. SAMANT JAITLI said...

    These look really big and huge 😀

  9. Achem said...

    Looks very tasty!

  10. Nyna said...

    I am the biggest fan of your yummy recipe and get print out of every delicious breakfast recipes.

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