Planning Virtual Cooking Demos

Seeing is believing! A lively, step-by-step cooking demo can show your clients, customers, and online fans how easy it is to assemble a recipe with nutrient-rich ingredients. As you work at home virtually during the pandemic, use social media tools such as Instagram or Facebook Live to engage and cook with your audience in an exciting and interactive way.

Tips to Plan, Practice, and Perform Your Best

1. Select a Topic with a Supporting Recipe
Topics and recipes should be timely. Consider those that will dovetail with holidays and seasons or are specific to various groups. Use ingredients that are easy to find and affordable and a recipe suitable for different cooking skill sets. With the pandemic in mind, focus on recipes that add ease and simplicity to mealtime with minimal cleanup.

2. Plan Your Setup and Lighting
Work out your setup for your tripod and check your camera framing. Notice the background and foreground and be sure there’s nothing unsightly in view. Determine lighting needs. You may need a ring light or light box to brighten you, the food, and your kitchen. Do an audio check to determine whether you need wireless earbuds or a wireless mic for enhanced sound. Don’t forget to check your Wi-Fi signal and ensure your signal is strong so you can stream to others without hiccups.

3. Practice and Prepare
Do a dry run to test the recipe, your timing, and the need for ingredient organization (mise en place). Testing also provides you with the finished dish that you can show during the live segment. Use a variety of clear bowls in different sizes to hold and mix ingredients. Create a colorful display in your work area with extra ingredients, a vase of flowers, or a bowl of produce. Use napkins for a pop of color or nice cutting boards for textural interest. During the dry run, take photos of the ingredients, cooking steps, and finished recipe for postdemo sharing on your social channels.

4. Create a “Cheat Sheet”
Create a one-page document you can refer to throughout your live cooking demo. Include the name of the recipe, suggested servings, pertinent nutrition information, prep details, culinary and nutrition talking points you want to emphasize, an equipment list, ingredients, and recipe directions. This reference sheet will come in handy if you have a brain freeze. Click here for a cheat sheet I used during a webinar and cooking demo sponsored by the Beef Checkoff Program for the Connecticut Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

5. Promote Your Demo
Schedule the day and time and pitch the event to your audience on your social media channels and e-newsletter about one week before the demo. Schedule reminders over the two days before the event. Provide a link to the recipe with a beautiful image of the finished dish. If doing a cook-along, provide an ingredient and equipment list ahead of time.

6. Go Live
Smile and have fun! Look into the camera lens and introduce yourself and the topic. Explain the format, and let the audience know they’re welcome to post questions while you’re live. Ask the audience open-ended questions as you flow through your recipe. Encourage the audience to take photos of the recipe and share on their social channels using your handle and associated hashtags. Close with a call to action such as, “Subscribe to my newsletter,” “Check out my new cookbook,” or “Book a virtual one-on-one appointment.”

Here’s an example of a Facebook Live cooking demo I did this summer with the Produce for Better Health Foundation. In the comments below, share a link to a Facebook or Instagram Live that you’ve done. I’d love to take a look.

— Liz Weiss, MS, RDN, is a mom of two with a specialty in family nutrition. She’s the voice behind the family food podcast Liz’s Healthy Table, and the blog and website by the same name. Liz has written several cookbooks, including No Whine With Dinner: 150 Healthy Kid-Tested Recipes From the Meal Makeover Moms, The Moms’ Guide to Meal Makeovers: Improving the Way Your Family Eats, One Meal at a Time!, and the playful new coloring book series Color, Cook, Eat!. Liz hosts the Meal Makeovers video series for CNN Accent Health, which runs in doctor’s offices nationwide.

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