How to teach cooking as a non professional chef?

Hello all!
first of all, sorry if I'm braking any of the forum rules, I'm just in desperate need of some links, recipes and tips on how to teach cooking.

I live in China for some time now, and after trying some of the food that I casually make for myself and my friends, a local (Chinese) person had asked me to teach cooking to grownups here in China. As I've never ever considered doing that, I am a bit lost in how to do it and what to teach. I love cooking and the main reason for it is that I love to eat so I don't usually follow recipes, I just cook what I feel like eating. Now, I know that first I need to make a teaching (lesson) plan for it and carefully think of what I have and can teach women who (most of them) never cooked, and probably haven't had much of western food. That's where I need your help. I need to make that plan and I'm stuck. Dunno what to teach. Could you guys direct me to something like a list of recipes that some cooking schools use?

Thank you in advance everyone!!

  • Posted by: Alokin
  • May 23, 2017


Ali W. May 24, 2017
If you have some time, you should read "The Kitchen Counter Cooking School" by Kathleen Flinn; the author basically built a course for home cooks, most of which had never cooked in their life. It's one of the best books I've ever read.
ChefJune May 24, 2017
As a cooking teacher for more than 40 years, I would first ask if you have ever taken a cooking class yourself. If not, I would suggest that you take a couple before you attempt to teach one -- especially since I am guessing you are not a teacher of another subject. I think that will give you a good idea of what goes into a cooking class.
Then I suggest that you choose REALLY easy recipes to start with, and ones that you know well.
Will you be teaching in Chinese? Do you know how to write a recipe? I doubt whether this book has been translated into Chinese, but "The Recipe Writers Handbook" by Barbara Gibbs Ostmann is indispensable for formatting a recipe.
The suggestions the other posters have made are also invaluable.
Windischgirl May 24, 2017
Think about what you cook and how you cook. Teach those dishes that you love the most.
From your description, you are an "intuitive" cook--even though you don't follow recipes, you use other methods to "measure" what you are doing, and I would guess it's based on your senses. Like how the sound of meat sizzling changes when it starts releasing its juices. Or how the fragrance of a vegetable changes as it cooks from raw to just right to overcooked.
I would suggest you become aware of those things and write them down, so you can tell your students and demonstrate these skills to them. Using all your senses adds to the enjoyment of cooking as well. This made be hard to teach but it will make your students more confident, knowing that a dish will be fine even if it has more of one element and less of another, and that they can use ingredients that are available to them, rather than worrying about not having the exact correct item.

Also think about how you judge what ingredients and how much to add to a dish. Write that down too. You may find that you use some approximate ratios of vegetables to meat, and you can teach these "formulas" as well (e.g., I may use only two carrots per pound of meat when making spaghetti sauce, but 3 carrots when making stew, and I cut the carrots in different ways so that they mix with the meat differently as well).

You HAVE recipes--only they are stored in your mind rather than written down. Take some time as you cook over the next few weeks, to write down what it is that you do, so that you can share it. Remember, cooking is forgiving (baking is less so).

One stricter rule I suggest is to teach your students about Mise en Place--setting out all your ingredients, prepared (like if they need to be cut up or spooned out) ahead of time, so that when you are ready to cook, it all flows. Less risk of overcooking if you don't have to run around the kitchen looking for a particular ingredient while the stove is on.

Best of luck! Let us know how it goes.
HalfPint May 23, 2017
I haven't ever taught a class, but I have taken quite a few. These are my suggestions from my "experience". Bottomline: keep it organized and follow the recipe.

Pick something that you've made for your local friends in China. One that they have enjoyed and build your class around the preparation of this dish. Consider the constraints of making this in a classroom. What kind of equipment will be available to you? Once you've settled the logistic aspects of the teaching environment, I suggest one dish per class. Print out recipes. Get all your mise en place and cook the dish. It's also fun to provide a little background on the food that you are making. Even if it's one that your mother got from the back of a soup can. It's the story behind the recipe that complete lesson. Consider the time constraints too. If you cook something that needs 4-6 hours of braising or refrigeration, consider making a finished dish to share with the class.

There are some truly fantastic cooking tutorials on YouTube. Search for the highly viewed ones to see what techniques (teaching) resonate with viewers.

My best teachers were people who LOVED what they were doing. This made me love to come to school and learn from them because they were so passionate and enthusiastic about their subjects. Have fun with this and your students will enjoy it too.
Nancy May 23, 2017
Agree completely with HalfPint.
If that advice is enough for you, great and good luck and ignore my suggested questions.
Sarah H. May 23, 2017
I would agree with the YouTube videos. I love to cook at home and usually use recipes as jumping off points to experiment with. The YouTube channel Sorted Food is a great source of ideas and inspiration - they always cook off a specific recipe that they have available in their app, but the videos talk a lot more about how to make the meals personal and true to your own tastes. Might be a good one to start with!

I haven't taken many cooking classes, but I did take a knife skills class that helped me tremendously! Good knife skills just make the whole cooking process so much easier!
Nancy May 23, 2017
Alokin - glad to help.
Please ask yourself and tell us a few important things. Then we can suggest some elements for your lesson plan(s). Also, others here may think of more questions.
1) are you teaching them western recipes or Chinese or both?
2) What do your students want most to learn about?
3) What ingredients do they
a) most want to learn about?
b) most want to avoid?
3) What ingredients in your area (from shops, markets, farmers, fishermen etc)
a) are abundantly available?
b) are not available?
4) How many lessons/hours in your course?
5) Teaching method:
a) Will the students each be cooking during the lessons?
b) Will the students mostly be learning from your talking & giving them recipes?
6) What heat methods do they have to cook with at home?
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