Season 3 Episode 48: A Sneak Peak Into Cooking Demos!
Have you ever wanted to complete a live cooking demonstration?
I have been facilitating (and co-facilitating as a student) live cooking demos for 6 years. It is truly one of my favourite parts about being a Registered Dietitian.
In today’s episode I’ll share 5 staples every cooking demo needs, in my opinion, and then give you inside scoop to what an event looks like.
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Did you miss last week’s espisode? You can tune in here: 5 Ways To Monetize Your Blog
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For today. I thought it would be fun to talk about something I’ve never really gone into on the podcast before, which is cooking demos. As well as doing freelance writing, I do earn consistent money from doing cooking demos every month. It is a contract position, it’s not a freelance position. But I was very excited to see on my Instagram poll last week, I surveyed RDS using that Instagram poll feature and said, you know, how many of you could see yourself leading a cooking demo? And 92% of the responses were positive and they said, yeah, I could totally do that. So I thought, oh, what a great topic for the podcast.
To make sure we’re all on the same page. I want to define a cooking demo in my brain and what it looks like to me. Cause it could be different for you. But to me, it cooking demo would be as a dietitian, a cooking demo would be creating recipes in front of a group. While delivering some kind of educational component related to nutrition, most scenarios, it’s going to be the nutrition management of some kind of chronic disease.
If you really want to get creative, because maybe you don’t feel confident speaking to a nutrition topic while delivering a cooking demonstration. You could lean towards the culinary element. So maybe if you have the background, you could teach something about knife handling skills, food safety. Or maybe you pick something related to the season you’re in.
It could be a summer special class. We are highlighting different produce that’s in season. Or i think a really popular one that people tend to enjoy would be the end of harvest classes where you teach people How to Increase the shelf life of their produce by teaching them different preservation methods, freezing methods so that they get the most out of their food over the year after you’ve nailed down your topic.
There are key elements that you’re going to need to make sure you have so that you can feel confident delivering your cooking demonstration. Number one is going to be tried and tested recipes. Number two will be a script. That has been written well and doesn’t feel awkward or clunky when you’re presenting it in front of people. Number three is going to be sharp cutting utensils. There’s nothing more dangerous in a kitchen than a dull knife. It can start to pivot or handle awkwardly, and then you put force on it, and you could seriously hurt yourself. So you need a sharp knife.
Number four, will certainly be guests. Making sure you have people signed up to attend the class. Depending on the facilities you’re in 10 people or less is a great place to start. My sweet spot is probably 12 people, depending on the kitchen I’m in, I can handle larger, I’ve done larger classes for 20 people and it was fine, but I do find that the people attending, perhaps don’t get as much out of it because there’s just less chance to ask questions The time runs out really, really fast.
And number five. I think having a volunteer helper or some kind of assistant is essential. It will help the flow of the class, it will help you feel more confident that you don’t have to remember every little detail. And it also helps with stage fright. It can feel very daunting to be the only person standing in front of a group of people. Promising them delicious recipes.
When you have someone by your side, it can really help put some wind under your wings and make you feel more confident. So if you have the means to bring someone on beside you, maybe a student that can volunteer their time or another RD who’s interested, or maybe just a best friend who wants to help out, um, I would not underestimate how much value that will add to your presentation.
Once you have those five elements in place, you are ready to lead a cooking demonstration. And I know I’m wrapping it up and making it sound so easy. There’s certainly a lot of work that goes into those steps to bring them to life. But I think it’s important to remember that it’s completely doable. And if you want to explore this side of dietetics and freelancing opportunities, it doesn’t have to be a huge daunting project. You just need five ingredients and then you’re on your way to facilitating a cooking demonstration.
The most important element and the, probably the trickiest element of offering these services is finding a location to do the cooking demo. This is hard. Not everybody has a kitchen that is up to code for you to go into and do cooking demonstrations and then serve people. My recommendation, from past places where I’ve done cooking demos and also from friends and peers, is to seek out industrial equipped kitchens.
Large grocery stores tend to have a kitchen because they do their own tests in them, or they do cooking classes on their own they’ll hire chefs and they’ll do cooking classes. Sometimes they’ll also do like summer camps and they’ll bring kids in. So those places are all set up perfectly for a demo. I think they’re very open to receiving dietitians. They just have to know that you’re available.
I don’t know that they will help you fill out a guest list. I think in the past they have posted some posters around the store and they do publish it online. Uh, and they will take some part of your fee. But it’s such a great spot because everybody who goes grocery shopping already has food on the brain. And they’re probably curious to try new things. And if they hear there’s a dietitian. Which not a lot of people readily have access to. It adds this extra layer of interest. So I would start there.
Higher education facilities. Universities colleges also tend to have high functioning kitchens and could be a great spot. Especially if you were going to do it in a time of year, when the students are there and you could cater it towards them. Uh, schools love that. They love highlighting all of the different programs that are available to the kids who are enrolled.
A last place that you could try would be some kind of community center that has a kitchen, especially like a public health unit or anything like that. I think it would be very unique per circumstance, but I would try, it’s definitely a great opportunity to network and put your name out there. Because you never know they might have some budget leftover or they might be thinking about renovating their kitchen. And then if they hear there’s interest or they have somebody who might be able to cook in it, that could really persuade them to start funding that project and get it built up.
So like I keep saying, if people don’t know what you’re offering, they won’t consider hiring you. You need to put it out there. In terms of payment, you would charge your hourly rate, or maybe you charge a flat rate. I would say if you are the one who’s buying groceries, invoice them separately. It’s okay to go shopping and buy your own groceries at the same time, but make sure you are paying for them as if they were separate purchases and then that way your client is only receiving what’s appropriate for that class.
Marketing the class can be tricky, but again, I think if you’re being very specific, you’re going to, I think you’re going to get a good turnout. People love it. People love coming into a cooking demo. It feels like they’re on a TV show. It’s just really fun. Especially if you promise that they’re going to taste something at the end.
One key tip that I forgot to include is creating some kind of printouts of the recipes. And if you are delivering actual nutrition Information I would include a summary Sheet. You can make a whole If you have the means to bring that up. If you have a projector where you can show that slide show. But sometimes people just like to write pen and paper and they keep notes anyway They’re there to watch you in real life so I think it’s good to bring something but I wouldn’t go crazy trying to create an entire slide deck if you don’t need to.
I thought it might be fun to just go over what I do in cooking demonstration to help paint the picture. And, you know, help you guys in your imagination. See what it would look like.
I typically will review the recipe of the day before. I’m very fortunate that my current client takes care of the administrative side and the marketing side of the cooking class. So they buy the groceries, they market the class to make sure people are registered. They excuse me, will make sure the kitchen is clean and ready to go. So when I show up, I just have to prep, lead the class, cook the food and just take it from there.
In my six years of doing cooking demonstrations, I have never had a client who is this phenomenal. And I do not take it for granted. If you get a client like this, and they are out there, just give them so much love and so much support because they really are a diamond. So just, just love them extra hard.
When I show up, I put on my favorite apron, get in the mood. I usually will put on some music from my iPhone and I get into the groove. I wash my hands, always wash your hands. You have to be extra cautious with food safety. When you’re cooking in a kitchen for other people. And I’ll go over the ingredients.
I’ll put aside a few veggies that are maybe a little bit more unusual because I’ll want to highlight cutting that and prepping that in front of the audience. Those are good teachable moments. Popular ones are probably going to be a cabbage because sometimes people are intimidated with where to start cutting a cabbage. Uh, also parsnips. They don’t know if you should peel them. What did it tastes like? How do I work with them?
Those are very common ones, also mushrooms. People are never sure do I wash them? Do I just brush them off? What are the different mushrooms? What did they look like? Um, so I’ll just put a couple of side of what I’m cooking so that I can highlight them during the demo. That is one of the best parts for a client to come in and watch you is to see all of this first hand, they’re there to learn about nutrition, but they’re also there to learn about some of the culinary tips you can offer.
A really popular thing to do is just teaching people how to properly dice an onion. You don’t have to be a super chef and know fancy moves. People who are attending this class probably have a baseline understanding of how to cook food, but they want to expand it. And so I guarantee you what you know, and what you can teach them is going to be very eyeopening for them.
So I get everything organized. I like to put things on large baking sheets per recipe, so that I can just put it on the counter behind me. And then when I’m ready to cook with it, I’ll just bring it all over and I know I have everything I need. I do measure out all of my oils and spices in advance and put them in little glass bowls, just so I know when I’m cooking, I don’t have to worry about it. I know it’s the required amount for the recipe.
I’ll also pull out all the pots that I might need, and I will just pre-fill them with water. If I’m going to be boiling something off for a large pan, I’ll just set it on the stove so I don’t have to go searching with it and potentially have my back to the audience while I’m teaching.
I like to immediately burst the bubble that there is any kind of TV magic in a cooking demonstration. So pretty early on, I’ll say, Hey, just so you know, there’s no TV magic and we’re going to do our best to make these recipes come to life. And that’s it, and people tend to laugh and they tend to giggle and it really relaxes the room.
I find and people are just like, oh, okay. It’s not going to be some show where they have to sit quiet, like they’re in a gallery. I tell them that, please just speak out. You don’t have to raise your hand. This class is really for us all to learn. And if you’re wondering something, there’s chances that somebody else in the room is wondering the same thing. If you have food specific questions, let me know. I’m happy to also show some of the canned goods like the actual can of the items so they can see.
I lead it with that and it instantly relaxes people. We serve them water. Sometimes we’ll serve them tea; it’s meant to be a really enjoyable time. That’s always the goal is that it should be low pressure, high reward.
During the class there will inevitably be some slower points and that might just be because you’re focusing on what you’re cooking and you can’t talk out loud and teach at that moment. And I think it’s totally okay. Just try to feel comfortable sitting in that silence. You don’t have to always be delivering impactful statements at every moment. Ideally if the class is relaxed and if they’re feeling social and chatty, they’ll just start talking and then you can draw back your attention when you’re ready to go.
I think a very exceptional leader will keep an ear on that conversation because it could showcase maybe a teachable moment that you can talk about later in your cooking demo, but also it just helps you make sure that everyone is asking questions that are appropriate for the room and everybody’s being respectful. I don’t think anyone’s going to sign up for your class with the intention of pushing their nutrition agenda forward but it is a group environment and you want to make sure the safe space is being maintained and that any conversation that’s just getting a little sideways gets nipped in the bud early.
At the end of the class when you’re serving out sample sizes so they can taste the recipe, ask for feedback. If they love the recipe, that’s obviously going to be great to hear, but if there was something that was missing or something like the spice ratios were a bit off, you want that feedback so you can tweak it for next time. Try not to take anything personally. Obviously everyone’s taste preferences are going to be different, but that direct information is going to be so helpful. And it’s going to make you feel even more confident in the future when you make that recipe again.
Once people are sampling the food. I do a very gentle wrap-up and I say, okay, that’s the end of the class. Not rushing to get you out of here. Please take your time and enjoy the food. Please take a moment to give some thanks or round of applause to the volunteer. We could not do this program without them. And I’ll stick around if you have questions while I’m tidying up. That’s it. It’s really simple. It’s sweet.Basically, they’re going to be into their food anyway. So they’re probably not going to be listening a hundred percent.
Please, please, please, always give some kind of positive reinforcement to your volunteer or help if you had one for your class, it will literally take five seconds and it gives them the credit they deserve, and it could literally make their day. It’s a no brainer for me. You should always show thanks. Especially if you’re getting help for free through a volunteer. Come on. They deserve it.
So that’s that I, I guess I’ll wrap up the episode at this point. It was my first time talking about cooking demos on the podcast. I’m not entirely sure if there’s areas you want to hear more about, uh, if it’s something you’re interested in, I’m happy to do another episode on it next year and cater it more towards your interests.
A cooking demo for me is the most fun side of my job. I love the energy in a room and I love asking the participants for cooking tips. It really equalizes that relationship between healthcare provider and attendees, and I’ll ask them well, how would you prepare this at home or what’s your favorite spices to use at home? Or do you have any tips on how I could extend the shelf life of my avocado? So it doesn’t go brown.
Make them feel like you also have something to learn from them because you probably do. They have lots of stories to share. And that’s one of the best parts about working face-to-face with folks. Online learning is powerful and it’s a great solution, especially if people are living in rural communities. But for me, there’s just this beautiful magic that happens when we’re all in a room together and we can talk and laugh and share stories and nothing compares to it.
Um, so yeah, I love it. And I hope that if you’re curious about trying it, you’ll reach out and just start getting that ball rolling and experiment to. That’s it. Next week, I will be back on the podcast and we’re having a super fun episode where I’m going to be sharing the haiku’s that dietitians have submitted. So that’s a bit light hearted and reminds us why we’re all in this crazy profession that sometimes makes us laugh and feel so overjoyed at other times, it makes us want to rip our hair out. So that’s coming next week. I hope you have a great time and i’ll talk to you then Bye