Does this sound familiar? You’re giving a healthful eating seminar for a group of people. Your slides are on point, and you’re sharing all sorts of interesting facts about nutrition and tips for how to eat more healthfully. But while most of the group seems engaged, you notice others looking at their phones, having conversations, or even falling asleep. Even for experienced presenters, sometimes that audience engagement just isn’t there. Are you looking for a unique and memorable way to convey your healthful eating message to groups of people? Instead of a seminar, try a cooking demonstration.
You may think of cooking demonstrations as something that dietitians provide to highlight a food ingredient for industry clients. Cooking demonstrations actually are a highly effective way to engage your audience with healthful foods and diversify your private practice. In this type of cooking demonstration, you offer your audience with all the same nutrition information that you would during a seminar, using your ingredients and cooking techniques to introduce and/or reinforce healthful eating concepts. Because you’re cooking right in front of them while also giving them cooking tips and then samples of the finished product, your audience will pay more attention and will be likely to try your suggestions at home.
Where to Do Cooking Demos
- Workplaces. Most companies of all sizes have some sort of employee wellness program in place. Cooking demos are effective for any group, from office workers to factory workers to teachers.
- Community groups. Provide demos for groups of new moms or a support group for people with a chronic medical condition, like Crohn’s disease. Many places of worship are taking a lead in their congregations’ health.
- Sports practices. Schedule a cooking demo for college athletes, a travel sports team, or a marathon training group.
- Schools. Students of all ages love cooking demos. For young children, you may want to demo simple snacks, while high-schoolers may be interested in easy breakfast or dinner ideas. Teachers love healthful lunch demos, too.
- Supermarkets. If your local supermarket doesn’t employ its own dietitian, suggest hosting a cooking demo in store for shoppers.
- Anywhere people gather who are looking to make healthful changes in their diets.
What You Need to Get Started
- One to two prepared cooking demonstrations. These should include recipes, ingredient lists, prep lists, and equipment lists. You should try to include multiple recipes for each demo, and these recipes should be centered around a common theme, such as Heart Healthy Meals or Holiday Recipes. Be sure that each recipe is something people can almost completely make within the hour-long time frame. If you’re doing too much prep work ahead, the demo won’t have as much impact as it would if they saw you make the majority of the recipe from start to finish. You want to talk about the health benefits of the ingredients and cooking techniques as you’re preparing the dish. Make a list of your talking points beforehand so you don’t forget to mention something during the demo.
- Pricing structure. How much do you plan to charge for the demos? Take into account all the time you’ll spend shopping, preparing ingredients, and cleaning up. You want to make the cost reasonable, but you don’t want to sell yourself short. A free demo to increase your one-on-one client base can be an effective strategy, but make sure you’re presenting to your ideal group of clients. For example, if you specialize in working with individuals with food allergies, it makes more sense to give a demo to a support group of parents of children with food allergies rather than a sports team.
- Equipment. You don’t need to invest in all new appliances and kitchen tools, but you do want to make sure everything is in good shape and doesn’t appear worn. You should have all the basics, including measuring cups, spoons, a good set of knives, glass bowls, cutting boards, and serving utensils. An induction burner (which requires electricity) is great for recipes that require a heat source.
- Marketing materials. How are you going to advertise your services? You may want to develop a sheet explaining cooking demonstrations, including information such as what they comprise and how they’re an effective and engaging way to inspire people to make healthful dietary changes.
What You Don’t Need To Get Started
- A kitchen. You don’t need a kitchen to do your demo; you simply need a table. You’ll bring with you everything else needed. Induction burners are a great way to safely cook things on site.
- Lots of equipment. You’ll need basic things like bowls and utensils, but the most effective demos are no-cook foods, such as grain and bean salads and dressings.
- Lots of demos already developed. As mentioned above, start out with one or two simple cooking demonstrations that don’t involve a great deal of equipment, such as salads, grain and protein bowls, or no-bake snack bars. Once you get up and running and are doing multiple cooking demonstrations per week, you can develop other themes for demonstrations that involve more equipment.
Adding cooking demonstrations to your private practice is a great way to diversify your business and provide a unique and effective way to communicate to groups of people. Plus, they’re a lot of fun!
— Diana Sugiuchi, RDN, LDN, is the owner of Nourish Family Nutrition. She regularly provides cooking demonstrations for groups of all sizes and has developed an online self-study continuing education course for RDNs, “From Soup To Nuts: Cooking Demos for Maximum Impact!” to help other dietitians master all aspects of cooking demos, from planning and development to marketing to execution. This is available online at www.nourishfamily.com/demo.