My first challenge: Teach novices to cook in 2 hours. What was I thinking?
My second challenge: Same time frame, narrower focus. This time, it was grassfed beef and pastured chicken and pork.
As promised, here’s a look at those two cooking classes, each attended by ten persons. (You can read the course descriptions and reader suggestions here.)
What went right: Class participants unanimously liked the hands-on aspect of the class. There were few enough in class that they each took a turn at the counter or burner trying and demonstrating cooking techniques. That allowed them to be involved and allowed me to make suggestions on how to do things better. We covered measuring, differences in baking (relatively exact) vs. general cooking (relatively forgiving), a general discussion of cookware, the benefits of mis en place (getting everything ready in advance), and general encouragement. I prepared great handouts, if I do say so. And the food tasted good.
What went wrong: Created a small-scale explosion (of the FOOMP! variety) in trying to use a portable propane burner; had to restart omelet-cooking after burning (or very nearly burning) butter in a too-hot pan on that very-hot-burning burner; took too long to get food samples on the tables, and took too long in general to prepare the food, at least partly because the students were doing the prep work. As a result, the last part of the class was rushed, and I didn’t get to discuss meal planning or most of the handouts.
Next time: I don’t know whether I’d try this one again. My pedagogical goals were too ambitious for the 2-hour time slot. A series would probably be better.
Grass-fed & pastured meats
What went right: Participants asked good questions, and samples were ready in a reasonably timely fashion. The hamburger was excellent.
What went wrong: Chicken took longer to cook than expected. Top round steak (instead of chuck steak as I’d used in the past) cooked faster than expected and as a result was a little tough. Too much down time because I was overprepared. After having to rush the end of the previous class, I got darned near everything ready in advance and then had to stand around and talk while waiting for dishes to finish.
Next time: I’d prepare the sauces during class, and I’d ask the butcher to cut the chicken into parts for faster cooking and easier serving.
Will I do it again?
I need to ponder whether I’ll do classes again. They are a lot of work, and the best teachers of these kinds of classes are entertainers, which has not been my forte. I doubt I’ll develop the perfect timing of the professional chefs who also give these classes.
At the same time, both these classes are on topics that I think are important and that I really wish more people would learn about. I’d be interested in your thoughts.
In the meantime, here are some of the handouts (PDFs) if you are interested: