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Need suggestions for giving cooking lessons

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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.

            1. As others have suggested, I would skip technique. And find out what she thinks of as an American meal, and get right to cooking what that might be. Discuss with her or your self how this idea of American is different from Korean, likely in the influences from Western Europe as a start. What ingredients do you commonly use that do not show up in Korean cooking, etc. You might buy her Mark Bitman's cookbook, "How to Cook Everything." Not because it's fabulous but she'll be able to see how to use a variety of ingredients.

              1. I would include. A roasted chicken, a Turkey dinner, steak on the grill, mashed potatoes, a good cheeseburger, roasted vegetables, gravy, bechamel, deglazing, stuffing for a turkey, and a good roast beef. These are pretty much what I grew up on and can still do very well. I love ethnic dishes, so perhaps I would ask her to show me some of her family dishes too. :) Have fun!

                1. As others have mentioned, I would probably skip the knife skills part and lean more towards just showing her how to cook things that she thinks are American dishes.
                  However, it occurred to me that (depending on her ability to read/speak english) you may have to show her what the differences between chop, grate, mince, dice, and shred are when she sees these (and other) terms written in a recipe. If this is the case, you'll then be able to at least briefly do a knife skills lesson and then factor in her ability to help with the timing of the actual cooking lessons.

                  1. Hank, I had a similar experience this summer with a gal for South Africa. In our scenario, she was a houseguest for three weeks and she taught me her cuisine and I shared mine. For our first "date" we went food shopping together and spent several hours exploring fresh and packaged ingredients avail at the markets. Each of us discussed how we would approach a menu from our own cultural experiences. Then we discusssed 4 main dishes and 4 desserts as our goal. We went to the library and read recipes, made a few copies. Then cooked, baked and celebrated both our home cooking abilities. We ate so much food together, we wound up visiting the gym as well!

                    Experiential learning is a marvelous thing. The highlight of my summer. I would highly recommend an approach that is mutual; both hands on and tutorial. And, have fun with it! It takes a special person and a time commitment to help bring new experiences to another.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: HillJ

                      I second (oops! third) the idea to go shopping together. Give her a grocery store tour as part of an early lesson so she has a chance to ask about ingredients, how to choose items, etc. I did that with a Chinese friend from my Mom's group who wanted to buy cheese for her toddler...walking into the store with her, I realized how bewildering it could be - there are a massive number of choices, just for cheese!

                      1. re: gimlis1mum

                        I couldn't agree more gimlis1mum! Teaching how to cook one meal satisfies the immediate desire to learn as a home cook but learning how to navigate American markets provides life long lessons. I still learn about new products every time I go! Plus, many markets offer reasonably priced or free cooking classes during the year should she wish to continue learning in a class environ.

                      2. re: HillJ

                        There are some terrific ideas here, things I wouldn't have thought of. Shopping, talking, cooking for each other. Brilliant suggestions, people. I'd skip technique and just do what y'all suggest. If she's interested, the rest will come over time.

                      3. I've had the pleasure of participating in cross cultural cooking lessons! It usually begins with someone expressing the desire to learn to "cook American". After a bit of conversation they begin to list dishes of interest. Big hunks of meat and casseroles are frequently mentioned.

                        A trip to the grocery is very helpful. There are many ingredients which give no written suggestions of use, so a person new to a country often has many questions.

                        Caroline1's suggestion of a meal is great. In addition to the points she makes, this method also allows the student to understand the concept of how dishes are chosen to create a meal. Plus she can now make a full meal, in context for her family!

                        1. This lady (she looks like a girl to me) is 23 years old. She is from South Korea and has lived in the U.S. (well sorta... Texas) for 9 years.

                          She says: "I know how to cook some of Korean food, but I am not really good at cooking."

                          She goes on to say: "What I mostly looking forward to learn is American food. I need the most help with seasoning because usually I make the food wheather salty or flat."

                          I guess I will play it by ear but we will make an entire meal.

                          1. I seem to be the only one to suggest this, but shouldn't your first "lesson" be one for you? First lesson: I would ask her cook for me, asking for a dish she is proud of and one (american) that she feels demonstrates the reason she is asking for lessons. Watching her prepare and tasting her dishes should give excellent insight into her skill, experience and expectation level. From there you can evaluate what you think she needs to know.

                            I also find that teaching the basic sauces allows a wide range of technique, seasoning and where these sauces can be used to expand her repertoire.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Quine

                              Insightful suggestion Quine and cuts right to the heart of what this young lady is asking to address.

                              1. re: Quine

                                Quine, that's a brilliant point! Not only does it provide the best way to assess her skill level and needs, but the teacher may learn some things about Korean ingredients and techniques in the process. Teachers should never think they know so much that they can't also be students.

                                1. re: greygarious

                                  Thank you both HillJ and greygarious! To me the best part of teaching is how much I learn.

                                2. re: Quine

                                  I would be tempted to do that but I don't want to embarrass her or anything like that. We don't know each other that well.

                                  I think we will just cook a casserole. We will eat it and discuss the ingredients to a casserole.
                                  A protein
                                  A starch
                                  vegetables
                                  Sauce
                                  and how to mix and match them.

                                3. I give cooking lessons all the time but my wife doesn't want to hear it.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: cajundave

                                    Yeah my wife gives em all the time too from the kitchen table. I say the magic words that binds all long term marriages....... Yes, dear.

                                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                                      I was wondering myself what are the dishes that she would like to make. That would help give the lessons some structure and direction.

                                      1. re: achefsbest

                                        I understand. I don't want to nag her with emails.

                                        Hopefully I will get a better idea after the first lesson. She just says she wants to learn how to cook American so we will start with a casserole. Can't get much more American than that.

                                        After the first lesson, I should have a better idea of her skill level and what she is interested in.

                                        She could be one of these girls that say "I only know how to cook a little" and then butcher and bone a chicken in 2 minutes. On the other hand, she could be a 23 year old girl that doesn't know anything but boiling noodles. We will just have to see.

                                  2. Well, we had the first lesson, today. We cooked a free form meatloaf. Well actually two meatloaves. I wanted to send her home with one. We also made some basic mashed potatoes and a beef mushroom gravy. I got the impression she liked the gravy best of all.

                                    We talked about all the variations we could have used in all the dishes. She seemed to appreciate that.

                                    I had her bring a flash drive and we downloaded all my recipes in word format onto it.

                                    I think maybe next week we can do a casserole and maybe a key lime pie (easy-squeezy).