About a year ago APPCA member and personal chef Shelbie Wassel of Shallots Personal Chef Service in Baltimore got a call from a gentleman who asked her if she remembered him from one of her classes that he had attended with his wife. “I did remember them,” she says. “He was asking what I was planning on teaching the following semester and told me that my class had changed his life! He and his wife began cooking at home and had subsequently changed his diet for the better, and had become passionate about cooking! It was an activity he could share with his wife and it brought them closer. He has become one of my biggest fans! Wow! It makes me feel like a rock star!”

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Need a reason to teach cooking classes? That pretty much sums it all up, don’t you think?

Okay, let’s stipulate up front that teaching is not for everyone–for a variety of reasons. Maybe you are uncomfortable standing up in front of a group of people and feel cooking for others by yourself in a kitchen is enough. Maybe you don’t have time. Maybe the idea of showing others how to do what you have perfected is not your idea of a pleasurable experience. You all can move on.

However, if you’ve been toying with the idea of teaching cooking classes but weren’t sure of what is involved and need gentle encouragement from colleagues, we’ve got some tips for you to help you make that satisfying leap.

Our experience is that many personal chefs have developed multiple income streams which complement their personal chef services, one of which is teaching cooking or demo classes since we believe personal chefs are by their very nature teachers. After all, we teach our clients how to use our services effectively and efficiently. We also teach them how to make healthy choices and to pass that information on to their children so they can grow up to be healthy adults. We answer client’s questions about food sources, cooking techniques, and recipes regularly. So, to my mind it makes sense to teach officially and be paid to pass along that knowledge–or donate that expertise and support to a non-profit group that needs our skills and expertise to help people in need.

teaching

These classes or demonstrations can take place in the client’s home, at a local venue, a vocational cooking school, a community college, or a demonstration kitchen facility. The size, layout, and facilities will determine whether the class will be a demonstration or hands on.

Think about it, you could hold cooking class dinner parties or luncheon’s in a client’s home. You could do event demos at fairs or market openings–or market tours followed by a demo. You could hold classes in a community center, a farmers market, a rental kitchen–even your own kitchen. You can certainly teach adults, but you can also teach kids and teens–or families. One woman I know holds brunch cooking classes on her boat in the San Diego Bay.

Member April Lee of Tastefully Yours, also in Baltimore, has been teaching cooking classes for 30 years, starting with after-school cooking classes for kids with the county government. “I’ve taught everything from basic cooking skills to cuisine-based classes to customized classes dealing with special diets,” says April. “I’ve also taught classes dealing with party appetizers, holiday dinners, and theme dinners. I teach because I love sharing my passion for cooking with others and I don’t want people to think that cooking is mysterious or to be intimidated by it.”

April Lee lorez

April Lee

April’s venues have ranged from using commercial kitchens in county-owned facilities to teaching in client homes or a commercial kitchen she rents. Marketing the classes for the county is done through the county’s course catalogs. For private classes, she says it tends to be word of mouth. “I taught a series of Asian cooking classes several years ago, starting with a tour of Asian markets and introducing students to various produce, sauces, and other ingredients. From that point on, word got out about my classes and I’ve had a steady following ever since. I’m currently developing a new set of fun classes and will market them to my personal chef clients as well as my students in about a month–just in time for people to buy gift certificates for the holidays.”

Beth Volpe of Savory Eats by Beth in L.A. is relatively new to the business but she’s been teaching grilling classes to adults and teens in client homes. “I actually love teaching because I love to share what I know and what I learn,” says. “I started the grilling class because a client I do dinner parties for wanted to learn to grill. I don’t market. They come to me through my website, referral, or Thumbtack [a site that lets you find professionals to handle various jobs].”

Beth charges an hourly rate with a minimum of two hours, plus the cost of food. If you’re teaching for a local government organization or community college, the rates are likely to already be established and are probably not very high. Shelbie, who has been teaching cooking classes for more than 20 years often teaches a class or two every semester at the local community college, which dictates the prices. But, she points out, each student pays her directly at each class for the cost of the groceries. She charges students of her private classes–dinner party classes, demos for women’s groups, etc.–based on the number of students, the menu, and the location. “A class of 12 could begin at $60 per person and go up,” she explains. “A private class for one could be $250.”

Shelbie Wassel

Shelbie Wassel

Shelbie uses Facebook to promote her group classes. The community college handles marketing for her cooking classes with them–although she also promotes them on Facebook. “I also keep a running email list of interested students and alert them to upcoming classes. Occasionally, I receive inquiries through my website from folks wanting private classes or dinner party classes and I keep a Word document handy that I can send them with some examples of classes I’ve taught in the past.”

Between us, we’ve come up with a handful of tips for aspiring cooking teachers:

  • You must be 1000 percent organized. Know your recipes and ingredients. Know what to do if something goes wrong–because inevitably it will and you’ll have to prove to your students that there are fixes.
  • You’ll always need more equipment than you think you do (i.e., sheet pans, mixing bowls, cutting boards) because you usually can’t stop to wash them while teaching.
  • Keep your recipes and jargon uncomplicated. You probably don’t know what level of cooking experience your students have.
  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse so you are comfortable talking in front of people while performing tasks. Be sure you time yourself so the class is completed within the time allotted.
  • Instead of providing printed recipes at the class, offer to send them to students later to keep them focused on what you’re doing.
  • Prep ahead of time to keep things during class moving. Call on volunteers to help and pass things around the group to keep them involved.
  • Have anecdotes relevant to what you’re cooking? Use them!
  • Know how to charge so you make money. If you’re volunteering or working for a non-profit with limited funds, accept the gig with the knowledge that you’re doing it for personal reasons. Otherwise you want the highest WOTDF (walk out the door fee) you believe you can charge. We tell chefs not to leave their homes for less than $250 per cook date, so you need to figure out how that translates for cooking classes. Remember to factor in the cost of groceries, and cost of extra labor (such as an assistant to help you clean up as you’re demoing).
  • If you’re on social media, use it tenaciously to market your classes, along with the rest of your business.
  • Most important: bring high energy and enthusiasm! If you can’t be enthusiastic about teaching, don’t do it. If you’re enjoying yourself, your students will, too. They’ll care, they’ll hear, they’ll feel empowered to go home and try it themselves. Which is the whole point of this, right!

And, remember, APPCA members are here for each other. We have lots of great conversations about teaching classes and other business-related issues on our forums. Feel free to log in and ask away–or offer your own input to others. I often chime in as well.

Do you aspire to teach cooking classes? What is your pressing question? Do you teach? Give us a tip or two based on your experience!

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

 

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Caron Golden

About 

Founder of premier organization of personal chefs inspires students to follow their dreams of culinary entrepreneurship.

Candy Wallace, executive director of the American Personal & Private Chef Association (APPCA), today was recognized by Sullivan University’s National Center for Hospitality Studies as its 33rd Distinguished Guest Chef.

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