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COOK SPACE QUARTERLY | Looking Back | Moving Forward

Michelle Mannix


T A K I N G   T H E   P L U N G E   I N T O   2 0 1 8 . . .

2017 has been a doozy. A tumultuous twelve months, rife with chasms, both political and personal,  and bearing an excess of individual loss and grand disaster. Yet, in spite of the division and disquiet across the globe, this too, has been a year of opportunity, of breaking broken standards and calls to action, of rebuilding and of new beginnings. 

On a personal level, our inaugural season has brought with it an avalanche of exciting possibilities. As the word on our little Prospect Heights studio spreads, thanks to features in the New York TimesMedium and (one of our absolute faves) Goop, among others, our already burgeoning Cook Space community is expanding at an astonishing rate which, blissfully, shows no sign of slowing in 2018. 

At the close of our first season, Cook Space founder, Michelle Mannix and Culinary Director, Nini Nguyen take a moment to reflect on the year past and to look forward at what's next.


M I C H E L L E   M A N N I X
C o o k   S p a c e  F o u n d e r

On Inspirations  

"In the food industry I’m extremely inspired by all the great chefs out there feeding people in crisis and in celebration and using food as a platform for social justice and change.  

How Massimo Bottura took the waste from the ’16 Rio Olympic Village and saw it as an opportunity to feed people, and then quickly did it,  I think really propelled our food culture - and its stars - to a new place and gave the spotlight to a different aspect that was sorely needed. The example shows us firsthand how we can tackle hunger, think about food waste, and the nourishing of human dignity.  

For Massimo Bottura its not just a pop up opportunity either.   He’s been doing refetterio’s since before the Olympics and continues to develop them, and other culinary philanthropy’s - all while his restaurant continues to top the charts.

Alice Waters also comes to mind for a variety of reasons beyond just the obvious as a pioneer in our industry.  I love the way she talks and teaches people about food.  Her soft languid speaking voice spills onto the pages of her books and recipes and makes you want to listen and learn from her.  You feel like you are being spoken to and taught by someone who cares about you, food, the importance of cooking for ourselves, and how that all supports not only ourselves, but sustainable food systems.

She’s passionate and she not only walks the talk - she puts her money and energy where her mouth is.

I love the simplicity of her food, style, and approach to life.  I also love that she seems to value and cultivate a beautiful personal life.  

She’s also a do’er ( I love do’er’s!).  Chez Panisse has been opened for 46 years and she’s still there daily when she’s in town.  Not just idly tidying flowers either but involved, speaking with purveyors, staff, tasting the food, speaking to guests, and I don’t doubt running food or doing whatever task is always needed at a restaurant.

Out of the food world Im super inspired by music (anyone that knows me knows I have it playing anywhere I am - all the time) and by the pursuit of an evolved spiritual life.  I’m a sucker for self-help!"

On what's next for Cook Space

"The beautiful thing about Cook Space is that it is so much more than a cooking school or an event space.   Cook Space was planned and built with the idea and intention of bringing people together around the celebration of food, cooking, and cooking from a different place, in addition to using it as a platform for connection, action, engagement and leading a new conversation.  We’re on a mission! 

We also want to take a lot  out of the the conversations around cooking and food that can sometimes involve fear, pretension, and a distance and feeling of “other.”    That said, casting a wider net on what we talk about, what we’re inspired and driven by - and of course food, cooking and the magic it - helps us to build a community beyond the walls of our studio for those who may not be able to join us.

The beauty of having an actual space is the ability to connect in real life through our classes and If our ‘students’ walk away with even the slightest ‘aha’ moment related to cooking or food - that to me is a victory in so many ways and in building community.   When you gain skills, comfort and enjoyment out of something you naturally share and encourage others to join you.  Our relationship with food and cooking is so personal and is an on-going development over your lifetime - hopefully.  We hope to be the beginning of people feeling confident in developing their own relationship to food and cooking for themselves from a different place.

That being said! We are super excited to produce 4 of our own events this coming year that raise awareness on issues we care about where food plays a greater role in both engaged conversation and in breaking down either barriers or thoughts we may hold.  These events will also raise funds to put the money where our mouths will be.

We also look forward to using Cook Space as a platform for Chefs and Culinary Entrepreneurs that come in to guest host classes, launch their products to the press or engage with influencers

If people see Cook Space as a place to learn, be creative with food, celebrate or engage in important issues than we’re on the right path."

Her Tunes of the Year

"A Seat at the Table by Solange Knowles was on repeat for me for months. Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper, and the latest National album got a lot of play from me as well"


N I N I   N G U Y E N
C o o k   S p a c e   C u l i n a r y   D i r e c t o r

On "Authenicity" in food

"Chef friends always ask me about my opinion on Caucasian chefs cooking Southeast Asian cuisine.  My opinion is that if it tastes good, I’ll eat it.  Food doesn’t have to be “authentic” to be delicious.  It is nice that so many chefs want to cook with the ingredients that I grew up eating.  It is exciting to see chefs use these ingredients in different ways. 
The big problem is when chefs don’t understand the food they are mimicking.  If anyone is adapting a certain type of cuisine into their cooking, they should understand the history of that cuisine.  Not only the ingredients but the balancing of flavors and the techniques that makes it tastes good.  I once saw a noodle soup dish that looked like a rich bowl of Japanese style ramen and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when the chef called it PHO.  It didn’t look anything like pho and it upset me because I am Vietnamese and it felt like the chef was careless and disrespectful to the cuisine he was appropriating.
The most successful inauthentic restaurant in my opinion is Little Serow in D.C. It is still my absolute favorite Thai inspired restaurant.  The chef, Johnny Monis, comes from a Greek background but applies the Thai flavors and techniques to American ingredients.  I had a corn salad there that tasted like if a papaya salad and tom yum soup had a baby.  They also serve the complete meal with a basket of vegetables like you would find at any Thai dinner table.  I think that Little Serow excels in the balance of honoring and respecting the flavors of a cuisine but adapting it to local ingredients in season.  It takes real talent and dedication to truly learn and understand a type of cuisine and apply that mentality to new ingredients.  I strongly urge anyone to go to Little Serow, it is so traditional and not at the same time."

On Holidays at Home

"The holidays at my mom’s house can be very different.  For our Thanksgiving meal, we usually keep it traditional.  Being from New Orleans, we have a few regional dishes like shrimp and mirliton dressing or crawfish pies. Our Christmas table is my favorite because we get really Asian.  Depending on how many people ends up coming over, she normally gets a roasted pig (a section or a whole), peking duck, bbq quail and all kinds of Asian salads and rice dishes.  I love seeing everyone’s dinner table during the holidays because it says something about your family.  No two tables are quite the same. "

On Kitchen Conundrums

"Recently, I made a steamed chicken with a ginger and scallion rub.  I steamed the chicken in a bamboo steamer and didn’t realize that the water that steamed the chicken would turn into the most delicious broth ever.  I thought that I would have to boil chicken on the side to obtain that style of broth.  This wasn’t really a mistake but more of a discovery instead"


Come discover with us! Wishing all of you a happy, healthy (and hopefully hilarious) New Year's Eve. May it be the start of a year filled with passion, collaboration, change and, of course, bursting at the seams with deliciousness
W E   C A N ' T   W A I T   T O   S E E   Y O U  I N   T H E   N E W   Y E A R !

U P C O M I N G   A T   C O O K   S P A C E


Michelle Mannix

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D E C K I N G    O U R    H A L L S . . .

It's December 1st, and we're fully embracing the Holiday season, gearing up for our Christmas Cookie Workshop tomorrow and our Jewish Comfort Food class next Wednesday. In between carb comas, we're gussying up our quiet little studio in preparation for the private party avalanche, all the while jamming out to the sensational soundtrack of Spike Lee's rework of the "She's Gotta Have It"

Nothing like some classic Roots to shake off that early Winter funk....Happy Weekend Everyone!


The women with the gumption to forge a brand new path and make the leap into a second career. 


Leftover, mushy rice into all sorts of magic this chilly weekend



Lady Bird, to see if the best reviewed film OF ALL TIME is worth the hype


A soak in any one of these gorgeous bathtubs


This tunnel of cheese somewhere in Brooklyn 



How cooking from the heart can convert a Lebanese refugee camp into a home


Taking the terror out of cooking techniques - such as these tips from Basically on How to Roast Vegetables and How to Season Like you Mean it 



David Remnick’s podcast on Love, War and Sandwiches for the New Yorker

Elevated office lunches like this microwave souffle 



Alexandra Elle, the powerful poet, reflecting on her twenties as she enters a new phase of life.

COOK SPACE FRIDAY FEELS | Thanksgiving Edition

Michelle Mannix


S T U F F I N G   W I T H   A   S I D E   O F   G R A T I T U D E...

While the year isn't quite yet over and 2017 has certainly brought with it a rather unhealthy dose of calamity and chaos, we're looking forward to the opportunity to reflect on all we have to be thankful for. From the roof over our heads, when so many have been displaced these passed few months, to the food on our table and the friends we've had the privilege of sharing it with, we are an  extraordinarily fortunate bunch.
Above all, however, we're grateful for you, our growing Cook Space Community, for embarking on this wild and wonderful journey with us, for sharing your stories, your lessons and your laughter as we build confidence in the kitchen together - for this and so much more, thank you.

Wishing you all Thanksgiving full of joylove and so much pie


For the stories of giving thanks from around the world, reminding us we're all connected on this beautiful blue marble. 

For all the GirlBosses out there, and for the ones in here - being part of this little but mighty team of badass women who support, challenge and inspire one another is the highest privilege. 

For Goop's Holiday Gift Guide, allowing us to ogle the goodies we can't afford  - along with the equally fabulous picks from Edible, helping us flesh out our own personal wish lists this season. 

For this very first episode of Gravy, the Southern Foodways Alliance's incredible podcast, on Adaptation, Survival and Gratitude: a Lumbee Thanksgiving Story

For chocolate that gives back, and for it being that time of year when we feel justified in pouring whole melted bars of the stuff directly down our throats.

For the good men out there, like Massimo Bottura and Jose Andres who, as always, has a plan to save the Holiday

For family and what we learn from those little helping hands in the kitchen. (And for the chance to meet more students like Frankie at our upcoming Family Cooking Class on December 9th!)

For all the GirlBosses out there, and for the ones in here - being part of this little but mighty team of badass women who support, challenge and inspire one another is the highest privilege. 

Oh, and for the feast itself. Because, Leftover Fried Rice


Don't forget! All individual classes are 15% off for our Black Friday sale tomorrow with the code below! 



"After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives. -Oscar Wilde"

RECIPES | Perfecting Fall Pies with our own Chef Nini for the Food Network

Michelle Mannix


With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we're practicing our pastry skills at every opportunity (which means pie everyday until November 23rd, naturally). We had the pleasure of hosting the Food Network gang at the Cook Space studio, with a quick tutorial from our resident pie-xpert, Chef Nini, with some variations on classic seasonal fillings, her favorite decorations and some tips on how to have THE showstopper dessert at your holiday table.

 Sharing a slice (or six, with the Food Network crew....)

Sharing a slice (or six, with the Food Network crew....)

Check us out as we share some tips and slices for our Food Network video here - and try your hand at some of the featured recipes below. For those interested in learning from Nini, first hand, we still have a few spots left in our Pie Making Workshop on the 18th!






2½ c        All Purpose flour

½ t           salt

1T            sugar

1c            cold unsalted butter

¼ c          ice cold water



In a mixing bowl, mix salt, sugar and flour together.

Add cold butter and rub butter into the flour.  Making butter pieces smaller than a pea size.

The flour should look sandy with lumps in it.

Add cold water a little at a time.  Just until the dough comes together.

Wrap the dough in plastic and let chill for at least 30 minutes.





5 Green tart apples (granny smiths are good)

1 lemon

almost 1 cup sugar

heavy pinch of salt

2t cinnamon

½ t nutmeg

4T flour



Cut apples into thin slices

Squeeze lemon juice onto apple to prevent from browning and to add acid to the filling.

Season apples with sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and taste the apples. (Apples should be sweet and a little sour)

Add flour and mix well.






5 ripe pears of your choice (Asian pears are not desirable in this application)

1 lemon

about 1 c sugar (depending how sweet/ripe the pears are)

1t cinnamon

½ - 3/4t cardamom

heavy pinch of salt

4T flour



Cut pears into ¼ inch slices

Squeeze lemon juice onto the pears to prevent from browning and to add a nice acid to the filling

Season pears with sugar, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom.  Taste and adjust seasoning to the ripeness of pears.  (Should be sweet and taste the cardamom)

Add flour and mix well.



SWEET POTATO FILLING (makes enough for 2 pies)



2# roasted sweet potatoes (hot)

2 sticks butter (cut into cubes)

2 cups sugar

1 cup milk

4 eggs

2t vanilla extract

1t cinnamon

2t salt (I know that seems like a lot but trust me)



Roast the sweet potatoes whole with the skin on until a fork can easily go through them.

Peel the sweet potatoes and put the insides in a mixing bowl.  Make sure potato is hot.

Add butter to the sweet potatoes and mix until butter is incorporated.

Add sugar and mix

Then add salt, cinnamon, vanilla, and milk.  Mix until incorporated

In separate bowl, whisk eggs and then add them to the sweet potato mixture.

Can make up to 3 days in advance if kept in container in fridge and will last longer in the freezer.


TREAT YO' SELF | Happy Halloween from us to you!

Michelle Mannix

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F O O D     F O R    T H O U G HT

Another week, another avalanche of misconduct allegations. And though shining the spotlight on the darker corners of our society can cause some discomfort, it's high time we talk about it and we're heartened to see the likes of Anthony Bourdain, with the cohones to speak out about systemic sexual harassment in male dominated industries. So, after a tough five days, however you're spending this weekend, whether it's elbow deep in decorative gourds, practicing our Kellyanne impersonations or treating ourselves to some serious self love - we're with you.


The dedicated Food Issue of this weekend’s NYTimes Magazine, cover to cover


Any of the croissants at Union Fare Cafe (but prefereably the creme brûlée)



Bon Appetit editor Andrew Knowlton slog it out for 24 hours behind the iconic Katz’ Deli counter



London Restaurateur Asma Khan, who’s kitchen staff is made up entirely of “second daughters”, a trait deemed burdensome in many parts of India.


These two badass GOP senators who prove party needn’t take priority over policy.



At The Dinner Party table, a collaborative art installation and feast made up of 30 female chefs and 4 visual artists….all served by 32 prominent male chefs.