Recommendations for My First Cooking Class

Joined Sep 2, 2009
Hello all...I am a home cook but have quite a following in the local community as the "chef".  Though I don't take that title, due to the training and experience required to attain it, folks here call me that. 

The question is this, I have had numerous people asking me to do a cooking class for them in their/a home and I was wonder if anyone can recommend some initial techniques or recipes to do as a component to this "class".

I was thinking that the first one would be about:

1.  Knife skills/cutting

2.  Use of seasonings

3.  A menu:

     Braised steak

     Stir Fried Veggies

     Double stuffed potatoes

     Desert (Chocolate Cream Rum infused)

I believe that this is basic enough to teach and at the same time show proper technique....would love some thoughts from those of you that have done this before or have taught others.

Joined Apr 3, 2008
I think a simple menu like that is great for a first lesson.  However I'd start off with a properly pan seared steak and leave "braising" for another lesson more fitting of a later season, as it also requires more skill.  You'll be able to teach a nice pan reduction as well.

Sauteed vegetables is a great idea, especially because it will incorporate proper knife skills.

Do double stuffed potatoes also go by the name twice baked potatoes?  If so then I like the idea as well.
Joined Apr 3, 2010
Why not start like cooking schools do. Basics like prep of stock, sauce, termonology ie. braising,poaching ,pouling,sauteing, etc. Protein cooking in schools are down the line a bit.
Joined Feb 1, 2007
When I sat down to design my In Your Kitchen Cooking School I thought long and hard about how it should be organized. My conclusion was that anything meaningful for folks with little background in cookery had to be techniques oriented. So that's how I set it up.

Based on that, with one exception I think your first lesson is much too busy. Not busy in terms of work load, but in subject matter. There's far too much for a newbie to take in.

The exception is knife work. Very wise of you to put that first. In fact, my entire first lesson is devoted to learning knife skills---they are, after all, the sine qua non of culinary arts.

After that, each lesson introduces new techniques while building on the skills learned in previous lessons. Recipes follow the same pattern; they are chosen to highlight the technique being taught while using previously learned ones as well.

Koukouvagia's post sort of hints at this. For example, I include braising as part of the lesson dealing with moist-heat techniques. And so forth.

There is no right & wrong about this. You organize the way you are most comfortable. But in my experience (and, btw, the way most culinary shools establish their course plans), recipes, per se, are the least important part. If you teach them techniques, they can then handle any recipe ever written. More importantly, they won't be afraid to modify and adapt as necessary, because they'll be fully confident in their abilities.
Joined Feb 13, 2008
I've taught this course a number of times.  Your ideas are very sound.  I'd suggest the following.

Knife skills: 
  • How to choose a knife;
  • Using a proper board (that won't hurt the knife);
  • Board management skills;
  • Sharpening -- not just steeling, but steeling too; why a sharp knife is important (not because it's safer); an overview of functional sharpening methods; and
  • Pinch and claw techniques. 
(Cube potatoes for sauteed potatoes, prep garlic for spinach, prep shallots for pan reduction, prep strawberries for dessert).

Mise En Place
  • Organization is EVERYTHING
Prepping Greens

(for a salad)

Hot pan techniques:
  • Searing;
  • Sauteeing; and
  • Pan roasting including how to find medium rare by touch
(Pan roasted steak, sauteed spinach)

Boiling, blanching and shocking):



(For the salad)

  • An emulsion (salad dressing, how to wash and dry lettuce, how to tear -- not cut -- lettuce;
  • A pan reduction; and
  • Dressing; nappes and puddling
(a mustard, cognac, green pepper, cream sauce for the Steak; a simple salad -- of course you make the salad dressing long before making the pan reduction)

Importance of seasong:
  • Salt and Pepper;
  • Layering
  • Hitting proper levels; and
  • Tasting while you work
  • Elements of plating; and
  • Some sort of simple dessert
(Strawberries macerated in Grand Marnier, bought pound cake, and melted bought French Vanilla ice cream)  . 

Note: Braised Steak?!!! Are you kidding?  Why would you braise a steak?  Braising is problematic anyway because it takes so long.

Hope this helps,

Joined Sep 2, 2009
Koukouvagia, Ed, KYH, and BDL, thanks a TON for the recommendations!  Really like the suggestions for meshing technique with a recipe.  BDL you really laid it out well.

And for the record, I meant to say Seared steak....not Braised.  Clearly I had my potatoes mixed up with my tomatoes..../img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif

Joined Feb 1, 2007
One other thing, Buellride. No matter what direction you choose to go, be sure and dry-run it, keeping a list of all the equipment you'll need, as well as the ingredients. You cannot depend on people having even decent knives, let alone other gear you might need. F'rinstance, you might automatically reach for a food processor, but the student might not even know what that is. And for sure and for certain, don't expect them to have cutting boards.

Two things to consider as well: A large folding table (or even two), to assure prep space, and an auxillary burner or two. Most demonstrators and mobile cooks opt for convection burners, nowadays. But butane burners are available, and considerably cheaper.
Joined Sep 2, 2009 are right on the money.  I have several cutting boards and plan on, gasp, allowing the students to try my knives but they may be too afraid in the end.  I think a majority of them will bring their German or otherwise knives, no snub to be sure, and I have an induction burner for the overflow....thanks again for all the help and I am always looking for more suggestions!!!

Joined Feb 1, 2007
If this takes off for you, Buellride, it makes sense to have dedicated equipment just for the classes. F'rinstance, for my own cooking I only use wooden cutting boards. But I have several synthetic ones I bought at Sam's that are used just for the classes. Ditto for a batch of less expensive knives (I barely let Friend Wife touch mine, let alone hand them to strangers), etc.

Everything stays packed in Rubbermaid containers, along with lists of equipment needed for each lesson that are not replicated. For instance, I don't have dedicated small appliances, so have to grab food processor, stand mixer, blender, etc. as needed. Eventually even the small appliances will be duplicates, and everything will be ready to go all the time.

The way I'm set up, btw, there are six lessons that they actually pay for. Then I throw in a bonus 7th, which is a party they prepare, which serves both to show off their newly developed skills, and as part of my marketing.
Joined Feb 4, 2010
I have been teaching cooking classes for years. Your plan for the first class is quite good though a little too ambitious. This is a lot of material for a class. My classes run 2+ hours and they are discussions too (the classes are up to about 14) that take time though everyone enjoys them. Some may be hands-on, others demos but I always have plenty of food to sample.

I suggest to cut back on the material and have a short extra subject on hand in case you are finding yourself with some extra time.

E.g. I always have ingredients for making a simple but interesting dip (cilantro pesto), that we can do in 10 minutes and pass the finished product to sample. Of course, I have the recipe available for everyone.
Joined Feb 4, 2010
There is no right & wrong about this. You organize the way you are most comfortable. But in my experience (and, btw, the way most culinary schools establish their course plans), recipes, per se, are the least important part. If you teach them techniques, they can then handle any recipe ever written. More importantly, they won't be afraid to modify and adapt as necessary, because they'll be fully confident in their abilities.
This is very well put, Heirloomer. That's exactly how I conduct cooking classes. I do include one, maybe two recipe preps and sampling in a class just as a side show. But techniques AND understanding the physics and chemistry of food and cooking are my primary objectives. And this seems to work.
Joined Feb 1, 2007
A lot of that depends, too, on how your classes are organized.

Mine are all-day, hands-on affairs, with a maximum of six students. So recipes are an integral part of them. But, in each case, the recipes are chosen so that the students get to use the techniques being taught---which is a real confidence builder. And, of course, they get to eat the food they have made.

Shorter classes, and those more demonstration-dependent, have less need for recipes per se. For instance, when I do demos at libraries and similar venues, I usually pre-make certain foodstuffs that highlight the subject being demoed. The attendees then get to sample the food.  

Personally, I differentiate demonstrations from classes. An artificial difference, to be sure. But an important one for the way I do things.
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