Taking It Up a Notch

DATE: Friday, January 31, 2020

HCC expanding "Cooking Confidently" series for spring

Chef Dino Diaz teaching at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute

Holyoke Community College is taking its "Cooking Confidently" series up a notch for the spring 2020 semester.

The program of three-hour cooking classes for home chefs will expand to three times a month beginning Friday, Feb. 7, when Chef Tracy Carter will present "Uptown Italian Comfort," from 6 to 9 p.m., at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, where she will demonstrate how to make pork chops scarpellio with creamy polenta and lemon semolina cake.

The next session will be Chef Carter's "Tapas Night" on Fri., Feb. 21, followed by "Italian Classics: Back to Naples" on Fri., Feb. 28, with Chef Dino Diaz. Each single-session, hands-on class has a unique culinary theme. Participants will learn how to prepare appetizers, salads, sauces, entrees and desserts, dine on their creations, and leave with leftovers and the knowledge and skills to replicate those recipes at home.

In addition, Chef Maria Moreno-Contreras will be running three Thursday baking classes this spring focusing on a different dessert each night: "Petit Fours, Glaces & European Macaroons" on April 9, "The Decadent Ganache Torte" on May 14, and "Contemporary Chiffon Layer Cake" on May 28.

All the cooking and baking classes meet from 6 to 9 p.m. at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, 164 Race St., and cost $84 each. Space is limited. 

A full schedule and menu descriptions are below:

Chef bios:

Tracy Carter of Chicopee is a graduate of the International Culinary Schools at the Art Institute in Los Angeles, an HCC Culinary Arts program instructor and a freelance food stylist for the Food Network.

Domingo "Dino" Diaz Jr. of Springfield is a professional chef, HCC adjunct faculty member, and a 2012 graduate of HCC's Culinary Arts program.

Maria Moreno-Contreras of Easthampton is a baking instructor in HCC's Culinary Arts program and a professional baker who previously worked at the Blue Heron Restaurant in Sunderland and operated her own local baking business, Chilean Sweets.

To register, please go to and search for "food" or call 413-552-2123.  

Cooking Classes

Fri., Feb. 7, 6-9 p.m.: "Uptown Italian Comfort" (pork chop scarpellio, creamy polenta and lemon semolina cake) with Chef Tracy Carter.

Fri. Feb. 21, 6-9 p.m.: "Tapas Night" (shishito peppers, papas fritas with garlic aioli, Spanish meatballs, crispy churros) with Chef Tracy Carter.

Fri., Feb. 28, 6-9 p.m.: "Italian Classics: Back to Naples" (handmade fettuccini, chicken parmigiana, broccoli rabe, Sicilian salad, fresh cannoli) with Chef Dino Diaz.

Fri., March 6, 6-9 p.m.: "Flavors of Argentina" (grilled skirt steak and chimichurri, crispy smashed potatoes, warm rice pudding) with Chef Tracy Carter.

Fri., March 13, 6-9 p.m.: "Beef Bourguignon: A French Classic" (gently braised beef tenderloin, buttery whipped potatoes, supreme salad with maple apple cider vinaigrette, chocolate soufflé with Chantilly cream and raspberry coulis) with Chef Dino Diaz.

Fri., March 20, 6-9 p.m.: "Delightful Southern Charm: (fried green tomatoes, shrimp and cheesy grits, cornbread with honey butter) with Chef Tracy Carter.

Fri., April 3, 6-9 p.m.: "A Night in Thailand" (green papaya salad in punchy lime vinaigrette, Thai grilled chicken, sweet coconut sticky rice with ripe mango) with Chef Tracy Carter.

Fri., April 17, 6-9 p.m.: "Stroll Middle East Markets" (fresh fried falafel with creamy tahini sauce, lemony tabouli salad, crisp phyllo dough layered with chopped nuts drizzled in decadent honey) with Chef Tracy Carter.

Fri., April 24, 6-9 p.m.: "Salmon Three Ways" (salmon with homemade pesto a la Genovese, Salmon with citrus soy glaze, salmon with homemade Cajun rub, asparagus risotto Milanese,  New York style lemon cheesecake) with Chef Dino Diaz.

Fri., May 1, 6-9 p.m.: "Visit to Asia, a Light and Refreshing Journey" (crisp vegetable tempura with bold, garlic-vinegar dipping sauce, summer rolls with plump shrimp and spicy, tangy chili peanut sauce, coconut panna cotta) with Chef Tracy Carter.

Fri., May 8, 6-9 p.m.: "Show Stopper Starters" (seared scallops, stuffed mushrooms, tenderloin crostini, artichoke hearts a la franchise) with Chef Dino Diaz.

Baking Classes

Thurs., April 9, 6-9 p.m.: "Petit Fours, Glaces & European Macaroons" with Chef Maria Moreno-Contreras.

Thurs., May 14, 6-9 p.m.: "The Decadent Ganache Torte" with Chef Maria Moreno-Contreras.

Thurs., May 28, 6-9 p.m.: "Contemporary Chiffon Layer Cake" with Chef Maria Moreno-Contreras.   

PHOTOS by CHRIS YURKO: (Thumbnail) Chef Tracy Carter. (Above) Chef Dino Diaz '12