1. Be prepared
Prepare all required ingredients and have everything in its place before your guests arrive. This is so that you can greet guests as they come in, with a warm smile. Other nice touches that help guests feel taken care of is giving each guest an apron to use during the class, as well as a possible snack and water. You can also let them know where the restroom is, and provide a place to put their bags. Make them feel welcome as if they are a special guest in your home.
Also, if you have all ingredients prepared, you will not have to scramble to get what is needed during class, when all eyes are on you. For example, if I am teaching a class, like the mochi class, that involves 4 different dishes, I put all the ingredients for each dish on 4 separate baking sheets. This way I can grab each baking sheet as I teach each dish, and I don’t have to run around the kitchen getting each component I need to teach the next recipe.
2. Be an expert
Guests want to feel that they are getting the most value for their money during their cooking experience. Be prepared not only with expert advice on the specific cooking techniques you will be teaching, but also study up on the origin and background of the foods you are creating. Find unique bits of information about the dish you are teaching about and share it with your guests; they will appreciate the extra information and will feel that they are learning intellectually as well as through hands-on experience.
They will be more well-versed and knowledgeable about the food they are making, and this provides added value to your cooking class. For example, for my homemade Pho class, I give guests background information on the origin of pho, the regional varieties, and the recommended way of eating pho. I have noticed guests love to know about the information surrounding the dish, in addition to learning how to cook it.
3. Create the atmosphere
Create an atmosphere that is relaxed and fun. It’s completely normal to feel a little nervous before every class, or excited. Maybe you feel a little underprepared, and that’s ok too. The important thing is to take a deep breath and to have a fun time teaching your class. Remain calm and speak at a good pace; if you are calm, then guests will also feel calm. Speak slowly and not too fast; guests will have a hard time understanding you if you talk too fast.
To break the ice, I like to have students, in a circle, introduce themselves and why they chose to come to the class. This usually generates some laughter, especially if someone was dragged to the class by their partner. A lot of times guests may not know each other, so breaking the ice helps them to relax, loosen up, and enjoy the process of cooking together.
4. Focus 100% on the experience, and not on what you will get in return
It’s easy to start fixating on how guests are doing, or to read too much into their expressions. It’s easy to start worrying about if guests are enjoying your cooking class or not, or if they will leave you a positive review. Instead of focusing on what you can’t control, focus on what you can. During a cooking class you can control the quality of ingredients, the amount of ingredients, the venue, how prepared your ingredients and the venue are, and how prepared you are, both physically and mentally. All you can give is your best. So, give in-depth explanations of the dishes, be accommodating, warm, welcoming, and maybe a bit light-hearted or humorous.
Being present allows your guests to be present and open so that they have a fun time while they cook and enjoy their food. This was a learning process for me, but I realized (through both being a high school teacher and a culinary teacher) that people’s expressions don’t necessarily translate to what they are feeling, and that I can sometimes impose my own worries onto people’s expressions. A lot of times they are just enjoying your experience and the process of cooking. Some people are loud and engaging, some are quiet and observant. It doesn’t mean that you are doing a good or bad job depending on their personality, or how they react during class. Over time I learned to just enjoy the time I have with guests as I teach and to just be myself. Your guests want your true unique self and not some expectation of what you think you should be.
5. Most importantly, have fun!
Most of the hard work of teaching cooking classes goes into the preparation for the class, and the clean up afterwards. As long as you prepare well for the class, you shouldn’t have any problems. While you’re teaching a cooking class, it’s important that you are having fun, and you are excited about teaching people what you are passionate about. Express your innate excitement and appreciation of the dishes you are cooking, and your guests will start to feel excited too. Ultimately, your guests will have a good time if you are also having a good time!
Host Article: Chef Kaori
Originally from the Bay Area, Kaori Becker is a cooking instructor and owner of Kaori's Kitchen cooking school and catering. Drawing from her Japanese roots, Kaori has taught culinary classes and demonstrations in Columbus, Ohio at the Franklin Park Conservatory and The Seasoned Farmhouse, as well as Kitchen on Fire in Berkeley, Draeger's School in San Francisco, and at other Oakland locations.