Jerry Pellegrino opened Corks in Federal Hill in 1997, an early entry in Baltimore’s ascendant dining scene. He went on to head Waterfront Kitchen in partnership with Living Classrooms, using the fine dining restaurant to train students for careers in food service. Pellegrino, who is a co-host of WYPR’s “Radio Kitchen,” recently launched Schola, a cooking school in Mount Vernon, with business partner Amy von Lange.
>> You’ve stepped out of the restaurant biz for a bit? For 20 years, I’ve been 80 hours a week, 52 weeks of the year in a kitchen. I’ve missed cousins’ weddings, aunts’ and uncles’ funerals, parents’ anniversaries. I wanted to take some time off, get some clarity. Do something different but still keep my hands in the food and wine industry.
>> How did the idea for cooking classes start? I’ve been working with Southern Wine & Spirits, the largest distributor in the country. Coincidentally they were putting together an education division headed by master sommeliers. I’ve always had an issue with chefs who don’t know about wine. I can’t tell you how many wine dinners I’ve been to where the food was great, the wine was great, but together they were tragic. I pitched the idea of doing a seminar for chefs with the dos and don’ts of wine. We filmed it at the test kitchen at the Bellagio—the master sommelier Joe Phillips and I did a little dog and pony show with 22 of the best chefs in Vegas.
>> What two tips can you offer about pairing wines? First, don’t mix fruit. If you’re serving pinot noir, with the flavor profile of cherries, don’t make the sauce with black currants. Use cherries. The other rule is pair with intensity. You can’t put a delicate raw scallop with a big over-oaky chardonnay. The dish is too light and dainty and the wine is big and brawny.
>> Tell me about the school. Amy and I have been talking about doing this for a long time. She came to Corks as the private events person. Then she went on to culinary school at the International Culinary Center in New York and moved to Italy to cook in Parma and Sicily.
>> So does that mean Amy teaches the Italian sessions? No, we do it together! Come on, Pellegrino?
>> What are some of your favorite classes? We develop new ones all the time. Molecular gastronomy sells out every time. Of course, teaching the Julia Child class is a standard. I knew her. She came to Corks. We were a little crazy back then and often drinking. We decided to make her a crown of corks—I got a mixing bowl and a hot glue gun. So I have a picture of her wearing it, with me, hugging and kissing.