When Jacob Hough took over the head chef position at Barcelona a little more than a year ago, the first thing he changed was the paella. He switched the rice from a basmati-style to more traditional calasparra rice. And he gave a boost to the dish's sofrito base-"the flavor center" as he calls it-adding more spices, plus jalapeno and green bell peppers.

When Jacob Hough took over the head chef position at Barcelona a little more than a year ago, the first thing he changed was the paella. He switched the rice from a basmati-style to more traditional calasparra rice. And he gave a boost to the dish's sofrito base-"the flavor center" as he calls it-adding more spices, plus jalapeno and green bell peppers.

It's undoubtedly colorful in presentation-golden rice dotted with green peas, red peppers and seafood. And it paella packs good heat (the kind that kicks your taste buds just enough, without overpower your palate) and leans a bit more toward a smoky Spanish paprika flavor than deep saffron. But regardless, it lives up to its duty as Spanish-style comfort food.

While I'd heard about Hough's changes, on Wednesday night I got to both see and sample the changes, learning how Hough makes Barcelona's popular dish. It was the first of a series of cooking classes to be held monthly at Barcelona through April (possibly beyond if they remain popular), this one titled Paella 101.

Held in a curtained off area in the rear of the dining room, Hough was accompanied by his sous chef and pastry chef, who assisted in the demo of three courses for a room filled with couples and friends of seemingly all ages. The theme of the evening was Paella 101. On the menu were three courses-jalapeno and crab croquettes, classic Spanish-style paella, and orange cinnamon flan. With recipes in hand, we were taken through each step of the meal, then treated to the final product with wine pairings for an educational progressive dinner.

Throughout the evening I picked up a few tips to use in my own kitchen-that it's best to let any tomato-based sauce sit for a few days to boost its flavor; that a sofrito can be used as a tomato sauce on pasta; and even that you can finish a paella via indirect heat on a grill instead of in the oven. The latter is a trick the chefs used recently at a mutual friend's wedding.

Up next on Barcelona's cooking class calendar is Stuffed Pork Loin (Tres Cerdos) on Feb. 26. For a list of classes and other events here (they've always got a pairing dinner in the works), head to barcelonacolumbus.com.