About six years ago, I began teaching cooking classes out of my home in Westport. Long after culinary school, a couple of years catering at Abigail Kirsch and many years catering on my own, the classes became a perfect way for me to share my love of food and cooking. Initially it was mostly friends and acquaintances but word quickly spread and before I knew it I was booking 2-3 classes a week from people all over the tri-state area. Here is a behind the scenes look at Chop Shop Cooking.
A cooking class usually starts with an email: “I’m interested in a cooking class in December… “
Sometimes they have already done some homework and looked at my demonstration class schedule and it’s very straightforward: “I have 2 people and want to sign up for the Holiday Bites class on Thursday the 8th.” Easy! Great! Done!
But more often, people like to create their own, tailored experience. They begin by choosing between a demonstration class for up to 6 people and a hands-on class for up to 4. I steer them to my website where they can look through past classes and pick individual dishes that sound appealing. Sometimes the choices can be overwhelming so I let them tell me what kinds of dishes interest them. “Gluten free”? Sure! “We love fish” Me too! “My husband hates goat cheese”? He’s not alone!
On the day of the class, I make the rounds to my favorite local markets. Superior Seafood at Stiles Market, Balducci’s, Double L and The Oriental Market are all regular stops. When possible, I love to source from the Westport Farmer’s Market and my own gardens.
Once back home, I finalize my plan for the order of the dishes, lay out the equipment and set up a tray of all the ingredients. This part is so key for me because the classes can be unpredictable, and I have to be able to adjust my timing and be ready for anything (I do have some good stories)! I love having a class full of engaged, inquisitive people who want to know where to get elusive ingredients and what my favorite restaurants are in town. At times there are so many questions flying around, it’s hard to stay focused on making crab cakes while simultaneously explaining the origins of spelt!
The private hands-on classes are even trickier to predict. I rarely have a sense of the skill levels of the participants until I see them pick up a knife for the first time. By the end of the first chopped onion I usually have a good sense of how the rest of the class will go—and if I will need to keep a Band-Aid handy.
So now it’s time. The wine is ready, the table is set, the take-home recipes are printed, the music flows through the house. The doorbell rings and we’re off. And two hours later, the house is filled with delicious smells, smiling faces and full bellies.
The most gratifying aspect of the classes are the follow up emails, complete with tales and photos of their creations. Occasionally I’ll run into an attendee at the market—recipe in hand—as they shop to recreate a meal. What could be better than knowing they enjoyed a meal so much that they are making it for their loved ones? In the world of cooking classes, nothing.
For more information, check out my website at chopshopcooking.com or email me at email@example.com