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Guys in aprons

From pulled pork so popular that 100 pounds flies out the door to a Southern-fried technique that makes even tofu “awesome,” Stan Butler knows how to feed Ashland Food Co-op crowds.

With a personality as big as his food, but a deft approach to showing newcomers the ropes, Butler was the Co-op’s first choice for its first cooking class aimed at men.

The Oct. 12 event, “A Gentle-Men’s Cooking Class,” is the product of suggestions from several male customers who recently had been divorced, widowed or otherwise found themselves unprepared for the task of feeding their households, says Stephanie Koerella, the Co-op’s education coordinator.

“The requests came specifically from men saying they hadn’t been taught those skills,” says Koerella.

Well versed in recipes that appeal both to his own young children and the Co-op’s health-conscious clientele, Butler says he plans to demonstrate easy, hearty dishes that can be adjusted for dietary restrictions. In the same amount of time that families can drive to a restaurant, he says, they can make a from-scratch meal that doesn’t dirty more than two dishes.

“You need to be able to switch up a recipe on the quick.”

Slow-cooking that requires only about 20 minutes of hands-on time also is in Butler’s lesson plan. He jokes that he wants participants to learn a recipe that they can say “took all day” but in fact allows time for kicking back in front of a screen.

“The pot roast is perfect if you’re wanting to catch the ball game.”

The class’s roster of recipes, says Butler, covers cooking fundamentals and defines such terms as “searing,” “deglazing” and “braising.” Familiarity with the process, he adds, will encourage participants to explore more culinary methods and genres.

“Each of these recipes will kind of demystify that.”

Classical culinary training at Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco preceded Butler’s stint cooking in Las Vegas for Japanese-American celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi. After a year in Sin City, Butler longed to return to Southern Oregon and Omar’s, which inspired him more than a decade ago to pursue a career in professional kitchens.

The consumer waste rampant in Las Vegas caused him to favor the Co-op’s environmental consciousness and eat-local ethic, says Butler. In the seven years since he’s worked as a shift leader in the Co-op deli, he says, staff has increased its output 10 times and developed a variety of new dishes, from world cuisine to classic American comfort food.

“The theme changes daily,” he says.

The name of the class, “A Gentle-Men’s Cooking Class,” is a play on both Butler’s tone as a teacher and acknowledgement that, stereotypes aside, the kitchen can be an intimidating arena for many men.

“It’s a safe place to admit that you don’t know how to boil water.”

Although plenty of women could benefit from the same lessons, says Koerella, the Co-op urges them instead to sign up for its free, introductory class, “Co-op Basics 101: Big Flavor, Small Price,” scheduled for Oct. 26.

— Reach freelance writer Sarah Lemon at thewholedish@gmail.com.

Stan Butler will try to instill culinary confidence in local fellas with a men's cooking class at the Ashland Food Co-op Thursday, Oct. 12. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]