Have you ever gone to a cooking class at your local kitchen store? I’ve been to several and have really gotten a lot from the experience. I have found that attending a cooking class can really improve yours cooking skills quickly. You’ll usually walk away with more knowledge some recipes
The other night I went to cooking school. I went to the “Sharpen Your Knife Skills” class at Central Market here in Houston. I found it an interesting experience. Since I’ve taken a few similar cooking classes over the years, it made me think about the best way to get get the most out of your class.
If you’ve never been to a cooking class you might be wondering what they are like. If you enjoy cooking you’ll really find them a fun experience. I’ve been to several over the years. I have always found them to be both informative and fun. I ALWYS choose a hand-on class (although there are classes that are demonstration-only). I like the experience of not just learning about a topic, but actually trying it too. Our class was a nice mix of lecture (learning about different types of knives, knife safety, knife care, etc.) and experience.
A few pointers:
invest a little Prep time
Let’s face it. Your local cooking class isn’t Harvard. You can pretty much show up and get something good out of it. It’s supposed to be fun and light. At a minimum you'll have a fun experience. But this post is about getting the most from your time there; something to keep with you and apply later in your own kitchen. As with any learning experience, it helps to prepare some in advance, so I’d suggest a few things.
Bring whatever tools you need. Our class was about knife skills, so I wanted to bring the chef knife I use at home. A few others did as well.
The biggest thing to me is to think in advance about the 2-3 key things you want to take away from the class. For this specific class, I wanted to learn the best way to chop a bunch of onions quickly, the best way to hold a paring knife, and how to use my knuckles to guide my chef knife. It really helped me to have these in mind as we went through the class. I concentrated a little more closely when we got to those sections, and I asked a question about one of them that didn't get covered.
Bring the right attitude
You have to be willing to try something and make mistakes. As with anything new, you’re not going to get it right the first time. After all, that’s the point, right? At our class, there were a number of different tasks to try as we learned. We started with the humble potato and learned to batonnet (think the shape of french fries) with them. And then used those cut pieces to create evenly-sized dices. Within minutes of taking knife everyone had a big pile of nicely cut sliced and diced potatoes.
The truth was some of us came in knowing how to do it, some got it pretty immediately, and some had to practice. But all of us had to be willing to pick up that knife and start trying. We all improved whatever skills we arrived with. But we had to be willing to make mistakes, toss the messed up pieces, and try again.
Get ready for fun. Keep it light. Be prepared to laugh at yourself. Be ready to mess up...and have fun doing it.
Have a Way to Capture the Info for Later
After the class, I took a few minutes to make notes about the new things I had learned. Trust me. By the next day you’ll forget a lot of what you learned. I even drew a little diagram of how to hold the paring knife. LOL
It helps to take a few notes. Take a picture or two along the way. Be sure to get the instructor’s permission before you do. Some instructors and some stores are more touchy about that sort of thing than others.
Commit to Practicing
Make plans to use what you learned over the few days after your class. As much as you can, know what topics will be covered by the class and plan a few meals that will incorporate what you’ve learned. Either make the recipes and/or the techniques you learned. Nothing reinforces learning like practice. Build on what you learned in class. Imagine how much better you will be at supreming citrus if you supreme 10-20 more oranges or grapefruit? You tried something once or twice in the cooking school kitchen. Now bring it home to your kitchen.
Now, I’m not trying to make this some big educational experience. It’s a fun, informal cooking class. Cooking school is a great way to improve your skills, learn new cooking techniques, and acquire new recipes. You’ll meet some people with similar interests. I hope you try out a cooking class soon. Go find one that looks interesting and fun and sign up. You'll be glad you did it.
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