Sitka Kitch to offer Making Zarzuela With Chef François Sanchez class in Cooking Around The World series

Learn how to make zarzuela, a Spanish/Mediterranean fish stew, with Chef François Sanchez of St. Charles, Ill., at the next Cooking Around The World class at the Sitka Kitch. Zarzuela, or zarzuela de pescado, is a mixed finfish and shellfish stew (note to allergy sufferers) that brings out the best of Mediterranean cuisine. It is similar to French bouillabaisse or the Italian chopino.

This class takes place from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 11, at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen, now located at the Sitka Lutheran Church (224 Lincoln Street, use back entrance through alley by Bev’s Flowers & Gifts off Harbor Drive). This class will be taught demonstration style, which means we have more room than usual for students. He will have time after the class for a Q&A about French and Spanish food.

Chef Sanchez is the father of Sitka resident Claire Sanchez, and husband of baker Betsy Peterson Sanchez who taught three Baking With Betsy classes at the Sitka Kitch this summer.

Chef Sanchez completed two years of study at the Culinary School of the Moulin à Vent in Perpignan, France. He has a lifetime of culinary experience working for hotels in France and the U.S., including Hotel Sofitel and Hotel Nikko. François was the chef owner of a southern French-style restaurant, as well as several Spanish tapas restaurants for 16 years before working at a conference center as the executive chef in St. Charles.

Defining Culinary Experience: “I lived next door to a gourmet hotel restaurant in the south of France as a teenager and worked there during the weekends. That experience is what prompted me to choose a culinary career. I loved the intriguing aromas and the great level of energy in the kitchen. It had a profound impact on me from very early on.”

Culinary Philosophy: “If you can nurture passion, focus on your perseverance and keep an open mind to new culinary horizons – you will succeed.”

Favorite Style of Food: “I love to prepare classical regional cuisine (French or Spanish), which has natural, clean flavors and includes minimalist cooking steps to preserve the true integrity of the ingredients.”

Top Chef: “I admire Mr Paul Bocuse. Although in his 80s, he is still very much involved in the culinary scene.”

Proudest Career Moment: “When I was inducted into the Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1996.”

This is the second Sitka Kitch class at our new location at Sitka Lutheran Church. After that, our next class will be from 1-6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 15, when Sarah Lewis of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service’s Juneau District Office will teach Preserving Leftovers and Holiday Gifts by distance delivery (this is a five-hour class, because she will teach students how to can several products). AFS exchange student Mohan Arul will teach a class on Indian cooking from 6-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 15, at the Sitka Kitch.

The registration deadline for the zarzuela class is 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8, so register now since space is limited. We need at least eight students to register and pre-pay to make this class happen. The class costs $40, which is part of our new all-inclusive fee system (you no longer have to pay a class fee to register, then a separate food/supply fee). You can register and pre-pay using credit/debit cards or PayPal on our EventSmart page, (click on class title). For those wanting to pre-pay with cash or check, please call Claire Sanchez or Clarice Johnson at Sitka Conservation Society (747-7509) to arrange a payment. We do offer one potential scholarship spot per class for people with limited incomes, so long as we have enough students registered to make the class happen. Contact Claire at SCS for more details.

Students should enter the Sitka Lutheran Church through the back entrance (through the alley off Harbor Drive by Bev’s Flowers and Gifts). The door on the right should be open for students to enter. Please do not park in the church’s back parking lot. Please use the public parking lots off Harbor Drive.

The Sitka Kitch also has a new class cancelation policy. If you register for a class, then find out you can’t attend, please email us at and we may be able to help fill your slot through our waiting list. If you cancel from the class at least five days in advance (eg, by Wednesday for a Monday class), you are eligible for a partial refund of your class fee, minus $5 for processing (in this case, $35). If you need to cancel with less than five days advance notice, there is no refund.