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Sep 3, 2010 04:41 PM

Need suggestions for giving cooking lessons

You people are gonna love this. I'm about the last person that should give lessons in cooking but this Korean lady in the neighborhood wants cooking lessons and I have agreed to give her some.

I'm not sure what her skill level is. She says she can cook a little, mostly Korean dishes. She wants to learn how to cook American dishes.

I figure for the first lesson, I need to determine her skill level with knives. I thought we would slice and chop some vegetables. Chop some onions. Chop some potatoes. Slice some carrots, potatoes and wedge some onions.

Sweat some chopped onions then make a soup with chicken stock, chicken parts, noodles, carrots and celery.

Roast some vegetables with some olive oil, salt pepper and maybe some garlic powder.

Saute some cubed potatoes to a crisp brown color.

Then we will eat it all and discuss it.

In the first lesson, she will have been exposed to peeling, chopping and slicing veggies. She will have been exposed to sweating veggies, sauteing potatoes and roasting veggies and making a soup.

If I can pull it off in 60 - 90 minutes, it will have been a good start.

Any comments on how I should approach this? And what my first lesson plans should include.

Btw, she isn't a vegetarian.

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  1. That sounds so cool!

    I'd include at some point gravy making. It's versatile (can use chicken, beef, vegetable stock) and well-loved.

    1. You apparently have no idea what her actual experience or ability are. Good knife skills are not essential for turning out a good meal. An inexperienced cook who follows a recipe can make a great pot roast even if s/he takes an hour to chop the onions and carrots with a paring knife and no cutting board. A professional needs knife skills but home cooks can get by quite well without great knives or skill in handling them, IMO. It would be far from the first thing I'd put on a curriculum. The woman wants to learn to cook American dishes. Roasts and meatloaf are entrees that are foreign to Asian menus, which prep meat into smaller pieces and do not use as much of it per meal as Americans do.

      1 Reply
      1. re: greygarious

        i agree... if she can cook korean dishes, she knows how to do prep of some sort. i'd come with a list of potential "American dishes" and ask her what would be first on her list... is she looking to make hamburgers and meat loaf and apple pie? or does she also mean americanized cuisine, like our versions of pastas and pizzas and lasagna and tacos, etc. give her choices... it'll make her an even more excited student.

      2. I would teach her the 5 basic cooking methods. What proteins, vegetables, and starches go with each cooking method, and she will have everything she needs to cook.

        It's pretty easy. Start out with saute and go from there. Spend a "lesson" on each.

        1. My experience is that when a Korean person says they can "cook a little," and that it's mostly Korean dishes, chances are they can slice and dice circles around me! And I'm no slouch in that department.

          For what it's worth, I have taught "formal" cooking classes -- the most fun was teaching newly divorced and widowed males how to cook so they weren't restricted to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or Pizza Hut. With them I started with basics such as, "When a recipe calls for one egg, you DO take it out of the shell first!" But the class catalog made sure it was understood that that particular class was for people who thought making a cup of instant cocoa was a culinary challenge.

          Through the years, I have learned that the easiest way to teach is by cooking a full meal. This is especially true when working with individuals or small groups. If we need a diced tomato, it is immediately obvious whether I have to teach a few knife skills or not. You'd be amazed at how much instruction, "We need enough water in this pan to boil pasta" may require. When someone puts a half a cup of water in the bottom of the pot, or even fills the pot only half full, then I have to explain the dynamics of pasta, starch, boiling salted water, and how much water is required.

          I explain how a technique used in one dish is common to many and give examples. When making a roux or bechamel, I explain the concept of "lump free," and how to condition flour so that it wont "coagulate' into lumps by making it lump proof by cooking it in hot fat, or how making and adding a slurry prevents lumping as well, and what the benefits of each method is and when it is used (fat at the beginning, slurry at the end of cooking time). This way they learn to make the specific dish we're working on, but they also learn how to apply the techniques we use in other dishes.

          Oh, and the very first thing I would cover with her is whether she or her family (the ones she cooks for) have any strong likes or dislikes, as well as any food allergies.

          Teaching cooking is a fun thing to do. A great bonus that comes with it is that you also find out how much you know. Sometimes you will surprise yourself that you're so brilliant! If your kitchen is such that you can have more than one person join you and still have a view of the stove, have you thought about cooking classes for a few people at a time? Island kitchens where the cook top is in the island are especially good for this. And above all else, have fun. You are about to discover the Joy of Cooking with someone else!

          3 Replies
          1. re: Caroline1

            For newly divorced males, usually all they can afford is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Pizza Hut.

            1. re: Veggo

              But those are the guys who have no clue to how many meals you can get out of a dozen eggs and a loaf of bread! '-)

              1. re: Caroline1

                Not always. As Rick said in Casablanca "I have sympathy for the fox, but I can also understand the point of view of the hound."

          2. Every series of cooking classes I had to take, the first lesson is eggs. Hard boiled, soft boiled, omelettes and so on. Maybe souffles, I can't remember now. You can gauge her level of skill from that easily. If you just make her chop vegetables for an hour and a half, she will probably lose interest quickly. I'm going to try to remember, next class was maybe chicken, then beef, then fish and so on. Vegetables weren't a class of their own as I remember...but this was a long time ago, before vegetarians started being all over the place. The last class, you get to do desserts, yay! Make sure you print out the recipes you are making, so she can take them home and practice.