I’ve been teaching cooking for as long as I can remember. My sister can attest that I used to narrate our baking adventures, instructing her to crack eggs and measure dry ingredients. In college, I minored in education, leading cooking and nutrition workshops at local schools. Cooking and teaching became extremely useful in the pandemic. This time, the classroom is my kitchen.
Since 2018, I’ve taught religious school part-time, with a focus on Jewish food traditions, which are very dear to me. My students and I have made challah, babka, labneh, charoset, latkes, and hamantaschen in person and, more recently, over Zoom. Especially during Covid, seeing pictures of their creations really brightened my days.
In February 2021, I expanded my freelance business with cooking classes for adults. The idea had been percolating for a while, I missed the in person happy hours I used to throw for my food-centric newsletter, This Needs Hot Sauce. I also knew that everyone was sick of making dinner, looking for new ideas and ways to socialize. A platform called Airsubs, which hosts virtual events, reached out to me suggesting I try out virtual classes. It seemed easy to use, so I made a profile and scheduled my first class, where we made a creamy chickpea tomato soup with garlic bread. The soup was delicious and everything went smoothly, except for the moment I set off my smoke alarm from using the broiler. After cooking in a small kitchen for almost a year, I’m so grateful to my local markets, especially Orange Tree on Graham Avenue, for staying open and making this cooking possible. If I have leftovers from class, I’ll package them up and drop them at the Cooper Park Fridge for neighbors in need.
If you’re picturing a Food Network style kitchen, you’re absolutely mistaken. I live in a fifth floor walkup with a tiny kitchen. There’s a small spot of counter space, the oven racks barely fit a baking sheet and the stovetop is in a corner. The founder of Airsubs assured me this setup was “relatable” and despite seeing his enormous home in the Zoom background, I chose to go with that. I use a cheap tripod for my phone I ordered online and I balance my laptop on a stack of cookbooks to moderate the Zoom chat.
So far, I’ve taught three public classes, with more on the way. I’m also offering private classes to corporate teams, students, families, and friends. There are lots of ways to measure success, and while I’d love to have more people in class, I also feel so accomplished seeing people cook great food in their own kitchens and walk away with tips and recipes they’ll make again and again.
Planning is key for each hour-long class. I want everyone to have dinner ready when we’re done, so I block out each task in the recipe in segments, estimating how long they’ll take and leaving a little wiggle room for questions. I don’t like to waste time, so if something needs to bake for 15 minutes, we’ll use that time to make a side dish, like salad or garlic bread. As I teach, I’m not just sharing a recipe (which can be found almost anywhere), I’m sharing techniques, like how to season each layer of a soup or how to make a baked pasta with whatever vegetables you have on hand. I love when people share their final results and sign off to eat.
Since my students are all over the place, I select recipes with accessible ingredients and try to offer substitutions. I’m vegetarian, so all the classes are too, which I hope helps people find more ways to reduce their meat consumption. I source ingredients from my local market and Wegman’s in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which is great for pantry staples at great prices (I take the bus or Uber there about once a month to really stock up). I keep the menus relatively seasonal. I am already dreaming about a caprese salad class in the summer, where I’ll use farmer’s market tomatoes from the McCarren Park Farmer’s Market and bread from Nick & Sons. I also shout out small brands I love, like Burlap and Barrel, where I buy a lot of my spices and share the inspiration behind each recipe.