Finding cooking lessons and choosing the best tutor or class are two very different stories.
In this blog, I will focus on the best steps to take in finding ways to learn about cooking, including things to consider before you start you search, like if you are willing to consider group classes or if you prefer private tuition, what type of course you want to do (i.e. a course with a theme, a beginners course, an advanced demonstration, etc) and more.
Themed courses might include gluten free cooking, vegetarian cooking, vegan cooking, hearty roast dinners, how to make fresh pasta, the art of preparing state of the art sushi, how to create tasty weeknight meals, the secrets of Mediterranean herbs, tuition on how bake artisan bread, how to slow-cook stews stuffed with flavor, traditional Spanish recipes like paella and, last but not least, pastry art like making patisserie-worthy croissants. Other food or sommelier related themes might include wine tastings, how to throw a great dinner party and food and wine pairings.
Wine tasting is directly linked to food. Photo on Visualhunt
For more detailed information on selecting the best tutor for your needs, then please take a look at my blog How To Choose The Best Cooking Tutor. You can access the blog here.
Whether you have always been a foodie or cooking enthusiast, or your culinary abilities have for some time been a bit lacking, you can refine and build on your existing skills or learn how to cook from scratch in one of two ways: teaching yourself or going on a course.
By adopting a self-taught method, you will experiment and learn as you go, but don’t expect this to be a wholly effective nor an easy learning experience. You will likely encounter many failures along the way, and have lots of doubt cast over your food creations because you might, for instance, be missing one tiny element or technique that someone who has been to a culinary arts school wouldn’t have missed.
But, that said, being a self-taught chef, if you really are committed to learning from sources like books and tutorials, can result in more unique culinary ideas and methods, and it can be all the more satisfying to know that you discovered techniques and tastes all by yourself.
Of course, you’ll need to have some basic cooking skills up your sleeve upon which to develop first, so no one is ever really alone in their journey to culinary excellence. Most people have been taught to cook by a loved one, and often have fond memories of times spent in the kitchen learning about food.
Many people will have spent time in the kitchen with a parent or grandparent. Photo credit: Daniel Bachhuber on Visual Hunt
Regardless of how you have become the chef you are today, you should embrace other people’s comments, suggestions and even criticism, as this is what will make you a better cook. Plus, isn’t that why people yearn to be a chef, so that they can please others with their food? How can you expect to do that if you aren’t prepared to listen to what they want?
The food industry relies heavily on criticism, on inspiration and on developing ideas.
But not everyone has the desire to learn to cook to be an amazing, internationally-recognised chef adorned with Michelin stars. For some, the ultimate goal is simply to be able to cook a nice date meal for their loved one, or to fill them with confidence when preparing hearty weeknight meals from scratch. Rest assured, even a beginner’s course will fill you with confidence and the desire to cook tasty meals for all the family to enjoy!
The Internet is a great way to learn any new skill, including cooking, as there is an array of information, instructions, videos and recipes at your disposal.
If you search online for help, you are sure to find a range of related articles like foods you should learn to cook in your twenties, skills every cook should know, basic recipes to learn how to cook or learn how to cook by yourself (with pictures), to name but a few.
You could try to argue that watching world-famous professional chefs cooking on the screen can teach you a lot about cooking methods, which wouldn’t be wrong, however there’s really absolutely nothing like tasting food first-hand, smelling the aromas they give off as you are grilling, frying or baking them and seeing how they look and feel at the end of it. As such, get on down to your local culinary arts school and enroll on your first cooking course!
I would recommend that the best way to go about learning to cook is to attend a class in your area. You can find details on how much cooking classes cost here.
Successfully completing a cooking course can not only equip you with fundamental (or more advanced) kitchen skills, it can also help you to develop better cooking ideas and can even offer you an extra qualification to pursue, should you desire to enter the catering or hospitality industry as a profession.
Male or female, young or old… there really is no typical cookery student. In fact, individuals who enrol on cookery classes are so varied that I should think The Culinary Institute and The Cooking Channel have trouble knowing where to target their campaigns or advertisements! One thing that they all share in common is a passion for food and, having watched many series of Masterchef on the television, it seems that more and more young people now have a dream to become a chef.
Many young chefs are entering the industry and innovating how we prepare, cook and eat food. Photo credit: ToerismeVla on Visualhunt
Prospective students will all share one more thing in common, though. They will all want to know where to start their search for a cooking class!
There are many different calibres of chefs, as you will probably know from having watched chef personalities on the television or from having eaten in a Michelin-starred or Rosette-awarded restaurant, if you are lucky enough to have had that opportunity. But do remember that those highly-qualified chefs are unlikely to offer classes, due to their hectic schedules!
That said, some very high-profile chefs have gone onto open up their own culinary schools, like Rick Stein and Raymond Blanc, so if it is all about the name for you then why not look into these established cookery schools.
Having not heard of the cooking tutor running your class is no big deal though, and doesn’t make them any less suitable for holding cooking classes. So long as they have at least a culinary arts degree and experience in the food service industry, then they are most likely more qualified than you and perfectly positioned to teach others about what they have learnt along their journey in hospitality or as a restauranteur.
The best place to start when looking for cooking courses is by looking online at local classes. Here, you should find a good amount of information regarding the companies, schools or individuals offering lessons in the many disciplines of cooking, as well as an overview of what you might learn during the process. Your local county website may be a good place to visit, as they often provide information to the community about classes and activities that are on in the area.
One thing you’ll want to consider right from the beginning is whether you want to join a group session, where one-to-one time will be limited, or if you choose to pick a private course whereby you can take more from it in the way of feedback, encouragement and advice. There are pros and cons to both, but if you are thinking about paying for a particular experience then make sure that you choose the experience you want, and don’t just settle for the first course you find.
Alternatively, if you are feeling overwhelmed by Internet searches, then why not head into your local library, tourism office or colleges in the surrounding towns to see if they have leaflets or information pointing to cooking classes.
By going in and speaking with administrative staff, you can get a feel for the environment in which you would be cooking and you might also be invited to take a look around the kitchen, fridges, freezers, pantry and classroom as well as meet the instructor. Even better, you might have the opportunity to sit in on a class that is taking place to see if it is for you or not.
You might have discussed going on a cooking course with a group of friends with mutual interests, or you might be looking at cooking lessons as an opportunity to meet others with a similar passion for cooking. While I can’t guarantee that you’ll make firm friends, attending any kind of vocational course is a great way to interact with others like yourself. And, who knows, you might end up falling head over heels for one of your classmates. All it takes is for a little bit of French cuisine to fill the air with undeniable romance or a bit of Italian spaghetti and meatballs to make a love connection.