Demos, classes, stage work

Joined Aug 11, 2000
This year has been an interesting learning year. I was hired to coordinate stage demos for a new food and wine show in town.
It was so different than doing a 2.5-3 hour class or doing a cooking demo at the farmer's market. Each has it's own timing and mise.... I've had the priviledge to work with Sarah Moulton, Judy Rodgers, Deborah Madison, Ann Cooper, Page and Shinn, Danny Meyer, and the mydrid of local chefs that come through for me in many ways.
SOOO....those of you that have done any of the above how did you prepare? If you've done demos/classes/open air demos on the fly....which did you like and why?
Joined Oct 6, 2002
I use to do cooking demonstrations at the Davis Farmers market in California. I picked a seasonal produce and created two to three dishes of this produce. The key to running a sucessful booth was to provide free samples for customers to taste and to provide a pamphlet with information about the produce and recipies.

The things I liked:
1) The enthusiasm of customers and vendors alike.
2) Selling out the market on the produce you were promoting. I remember a vendor telling that this was the first time they sold out of mushrooms in 10 years after I did a warm mushroom salad and clearing the whole market on leeks after i made potato leek soup.
3) Learning to talk and cook at the same time.
4) Free produce from the vendors
5) Getting the opportunity to make business connections on catering personal chef"ing" from customers.

Things I didn't like
1) Only having one burner and no running water.
Joined Aug 11, 2000
90% of the chefs that do demos at the market LOVE IT> for many of the same reasons you stated. We have 2 burners water.
I've talked to alot of market masters around the country and most are having trouble with chefs using foods from the market...I did too until I told um we shop then cook....that way asparagus do not show up in Aug.
Joined Aug 11, 2000
Stage work was interesting, I had prepped Sarah Moulton's recipes to a point. With sub ins for cooked food where wanted....
fresh portabello mushrooms, marinated ones, cooked ones.....
I was alittle surprised to have 3 pots for one meatball escarole soup. My assistants measured spices and viniagers in tiny containers then saran wrap them....which became unfun on stage.
We started with conduction burners which EVERYONE had deficulty switched to butane....
Sarah hit timing just right, practice works.
Other chefs did not grasp how the schedule was set, more activities were happening and that they would need to be done in 45 minutes.....A couple were ACF medalist and considered it competition, they chatted before hand and ended up not being prepared on stage. I tried to be unobstursive and hand them tongs and swap out cutting boards,but just a prior run through would have helped immensely.
PHOTOS, BIOS and RECIPES.....if any of you want to be apart of foodshows/classes etc.....having these readily available makes the coordinators job so much got to the point that I just said," Get your bio to me by Monday or I'll make something up." Recipes were a bear too.....they were not written for home cooks with clarity, a few had 40 ingredients!!!! I wanted something that reflected the food they make,and had an interesting twist to it.
I ended up with one guy making roast leg of lamb and Morrocan stew, One doing a stuffed flank steak and Thai salad, one making vegetarian burgers, one making fresh pasta, Sarah making carrot fetticine (ribbons) with shrimp!!! wonderful, Salad with spicy pralines, meatball escarole soup and portabello sandwiches.

One of the most important things I learned was to KNOW the recipes so if someone gets stuck on stage you can bail them out.
A quick walk through beforehand can safe your butt. And having assitants that can sweet talk the kitchen into a dab or pinch or forgotten equipment is invaluable....I just asked for things to be done and didn't ask how that would happen. Gotta love it.
Joined May 15, 2003
The real key is to get someone to assist you and stay in the back ground. Know your hand movements,recipes and what you are going to do nxt . This lends a huge support to seaming everything together.....You can look like a God!!!!:chef:
Joined May 14, 2001
I've done a lot of these demos and classes and my best advice is to relax, have fun and be yourself. If you mess smething up, don't worry, it actually relaxes people to see the "master" make mistakes too. Often mistakes are the best way to teach. It's tough to explain how an emulsion "breaks" without breaking one.

If you'd like to try your hand, approach a local food co-op or grocery store and ask. They'll usually jump at the chance to have a pro in their midst. One thing will lead to another and soon you'll be organizing 4-day food festivals with nationally known chefs. Careful what you wish for.
Joined Aug 11, 2000
Amen!!!! I'm in the midst of negoiations for the next food show and am trying to come up with an amount that I can work it.....last year was My first and a discount job....this year I KNOW what is entailed and it's a whole buncha work.
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