How are those New Year’s Resolutions going? Some people say that they want to stop eating out so much, then realize that they need to sharpen their cooking skills. The more you cook, the better you get. Here are some creative and inexpensive ways to learn:
1. Host A Cooking Party:
Each One, Teach One- Everyone has cooking strengths. Whether you are more of a cook or a baker, everyone has a signature dish. Use the knowledge from your friends and family by asking a friend/family member to show you and a small group how to make a dish. The different members in each group can rotate “cooking classes”. Maybe you have a friend that knows how to make Indian Food. Have them to teach everyone how to make an Indian dish. The next month, someone else can show off their specialty. There is a great wealth of knowledge in your friendship circles. Use it!
You could also ask a chef at one of your favorite restaurants to teach you and a group of friends how to cook at your house. If you invite 10-15 people and everyone pays about $30, that could cover the cost of the chef’s time and the food ingredients. Ask the chef to make the class as interactive as possible. This is a great way to get tips on how to make delicious, restaurant quality food.
2. Community Colleges:
Check your local community college for cooking classes. They are often a great value, and you get instruction from people that are trained to cook. In the metro Chicago area (suburbs), College of DuPage offers cooking classes. Downtown, the Chicago Cultural Center also offers cooking classes that are quite affordable, starting at $30 a class (visit www.chicagoworldkitchen.org).
3. Grocery Stores:
Upscale grocery stores often offer cooking classes. Check your local Whole Foods, Wegmans and Publix stores to see if they offer classes. Local gourmet stores are also great places to check.
Get cooking tips from the comfort of your own home – there’s no need to go anywhere. Set up your laptop or iPad to watch cooking podcasts and YouTube channels.
- Cooking-specific podcasts are a great way to learn how to cook. Many of them have a nominal cost, and some of them are free.
- Subscribe to Podcasts like Start Cooking, which covers cooking basics (you would be surprised at what you don’t know) http://startcooking.com/,
- Visit the video section at allrecipes.com for quick, instructional videos on everything from Shortcut Recipes to how to make French Toast.
- YouTube: Search the videos for the dish that you’ve been wanting to learn how to make. I would suggest that you watch a few videos, and follow the advice of an expert source. I learned how to make sweet plantains by watching YouTube videos, and they were delicious. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCHIeRYzKII
5. Attend Local Festivals
Local festivals often have cooking demonstrations. For example, in Chicago, The Taste of Chicago, Printer’s Row Lit Fest and the Flower and Garden Show all have cooking demonstrations, many times with local celebrity chefs.
6. Specialty Cookware Retail Stores:
Retail stores like Sur La Table and Williams Sonoma offer cooking classes in select locations. Some classes are offered for free, while others require a fee. Check their websites for details:
Sur La Table – Currently offering a knife skills class:
7. Join a cooking meetup group
Meetup.com is a great website to meet people w/similar interests. Visit the website and search your city for cooking groups.
8. Online Daily Deals:
Daily deal websites like Groupon, YouSwoop and Living Social often offer deals on cooking classes. Scoop them up when you see them.
9. Get a Part-Time Job:
Want to learn how to professionally bake and decorate pastries? Get a part-time job at a bakery. They might be willing to train you. The pay might not be amazing, but it’s an affordable option to learn professional level skills vs. going to a culinary school.
Whether you are volunteering at a soup kitchen, making meals at the Ronald McDonald House, or teaching kids about healthy eating with Common Threads, food-based volunteer organizations are also a great way to learn some cooking skills. As simple as many of the dishes may seem, I’ve always learned at least one cooking tip during my volunteer experiences. It’s great to be able to serve the community and learn all at the same time.