From the retail setting to the community private practice, there seems to be no shortage of opportunities for RDs to plan and host cooking classes. Showing our clients and community residents nutrition in action engages and inspires them, convincing them that what we recommend is attainable and desirable. However, careful planning is key to making culinary demonstrations run smoothly and be enjoyable for audiences and nutrition professionals alike. The following process for preparing and implementing a cooking class will help make your event a success.
1. Case the place beforehand. It’s critical to know how much space, equipment, refrigeration, and storage you’ll need, and where your audience will sit or stand during the demonstration. Either visit the space before hand or ask the manager to send pictures or a short video of the space taken from a phone. Make a list of the equipment you’ll need, and inquire about what will be available. This will help you determine what supplies of your own you’ll need to bring.
2. Plan your recipes. Consider your target audience, how much time is available, the number of tools and pieces of equipment needed, and the logistics of sampling the food. Typically, two to four batches of a recipe is adequate for a class lasting one hour. If you plan to have food prepared before the class starts, make sure you follow food safety practices for hot and cold food storage. Also, having an assistant hand out samples during the class can be invaluable.
3. Create a timeline for preparation and presentation. Determine what ingredients you’ll need to prepare, measure out, or cook before the demonstration. Develop a timeline for what needs to be done the day before and day of the class. Write a seperate timeline for the actual class, including the time require to make each recipe, sampling, and audience questions.
4. Draw a diagram of how you’ll set up the cooking space. This should include utensils to prepare the recipes and the order of ingredients placed around the space. Make note of where handwashing sinks and garbage cans are located in relation to where you’ll be instructing, so they’re easy to access throughout the demonstration.
5. Practice the demo the day before your class. This is especially important if you’re unfamiliar with the recipes or are uncomfortable with speaking and engaging an audience while cooking. Prepare the recipes in front of a friend or family member while explaining what you’re doing. Afterwards, you can enjoy the food together and discuss what went well, what didn’t go well, and what you can do differently on class day.
Cooking classes can be as much fun for the demonstrator to conduct as they are for the audience to watch. Careful attention to detail in the planning stages will ensure you enjoy the classes and move through the recipes with ease on event day.
— Whitney Reist, RD, is a culinary dietitian with professional training from Le Cordon Bleu. She specializes in recipe development, food photography, and provides personal chef services to her local community in the greater Nashville area. Whitney loves to share recipes and inspiration for gaining confidence in the kitchen through her food blog, www.sweetcayenne.com. Her husband, who’s also a dietitian and fellow foodie, recently joined her in completing the Master Gardener program through the University of Tennessee. On any given weekend, you can find them gardening, grilling, practicing photography, and trying out new restaurants.