Kitchener-Waterloo

Stir crazy? Try an online cooking video, suggests Andrew Coppolino

Food businesses and chefs are offering cooking classes and other instruction through video communications platforms, writes Andrew Coppolino.

Online cooking classes and demos abound during COVID-19 pandemic

Food businesses and chefs in Waterloo region are getting creative by offering cooking classes and other sessions virtually. (Cherries/stock.adobe.com)

While musicians have taken to performing virtual concerts and teachers are preparing online instruction for their students, food businesses and chefs are offering cooking classes and other instruction through video communications platforms.   

The move is motivated by more than money: businesses also want to stay connected with their core of community support and grow at the same time.

Here is just a sampling of businesses and chefs in this area offering online instruction and demonstrations – some free, some for a fee (rates subject to change).

Relish Cooking Studio

Virtual cooking classes, via Zoom, include everything from knife skills to cooking lentils and gnocchi. Online guest instructors have included Guelph chef and author Emily Richards and food writer and cook book author Julie van Rosendaal.

"The classes have proven to be very popular and sell out," says Relish co-owner Donna-Marie Pye. "We've even had participants from outside Canada."

After you register, you receive a grocery list – "there are easy substitutions," adds Pye – and a Zoom invite. Classes are about an hour. Prices are approximately $20-$25. 

The Culinary Studio

Like Relish, The Culinary Studio co-owners Kirstie Herbstreit and Jody O'Malley offer hands-on cooking classes. Each in their home kitchen, the chef-instructors take participants step-by-step through recipes and answer questions.

A recent Mexican cooking class cost $40 for the class only, or $75 including ingredients for pick-up; instruction included making shrimp and scallop ceviche and tacos.

When you sign up, you receive a list of equipment needed and an ingredient list for 2 p.m. pick-up (delivered to the trunk of your car) at the Studio on the day of the class.

Classes then begin at 5 p.m. The classes are designed to feed a family of four, according to Herbstreit. 

Natalina's Kitchen

Pre-Covid, Natalina's Kitchen in Guelph was popular for its cooking classes and food tours.

Online, Natalina's Kitchen offers remote instruction in beginner bread-making, risotto, minestrone soup and chicken or eggplant parm. Prices vary. Private group sessions are also offered. 

Videos Posted

If you search around for the social media accounts of some of your favourite restaurants and food businesses, you might find chefs posting cooking demonstrations. They have proven to be quick and efficient ways for businesses to connect with their supporters.

Jason Bangerter, Langdon Hall 
Bangerter's Instagram account (@chefbangerter) takes you through preparing a basic roast chicken or cellar root vegetables to the more luxe truffle soup. 

#519QuarantineKitchen
Earlier this month, a group of six local chefs each prepared a demonstration video of how to a make specific dish that contributed to a six-course dinner.

Viewers were challenged to make the dishes along with them. You can find those videos by searching for Instagram #519QuarantineKitchen.

Some examples of what you'll find include: 

  • Willibald Farm Distillery chef Byron Hallett (@saltypigparts on Instagram) takes you through making ricotta cappelletti.
  • Martha Borys (@crumbakehouse) demonstrates making pâte brisée pastry and apple-butter hand pies.
  • Tim Borys (@tmborys) of Lancaster Smokehouse made a carrot dish.

There are several other types of businesses – from national chain grocers to small mom and pop companies – that have added online instruction and demonstrations as a way of generating business and keeping their products and services in front of customers during this time of disruption and physical distancing.

PC Insiders Project 
The "PC Insiders Project" gives you access to cooking instruction and demonstrations from chefs across Canada, including local cooks Nick Benninger and Jason Bangerter.

Dishes include breads, a tuna melt, rice pudding and pasta dishes. 

Buzz Tour Company 
A Waterloo Region-based business that offers wine, beer and cider tours for between four and 20 people is impossible in this time of physical distancing, so they've been offering "Virtual Wine Nights" on Wednesdays; a recent online event included a Mexican-food cooking demonstration and discussion of tequila. 

Are these demonstrations and the platforms delivering them likely to stick around after the food and hospitality industry returns to a new normal, whatever that might look like.

It's hard to say what the sector will look like, but like the enhanced pick-up and delivery options that restaurants have adopted, food businesses will give this method of generating revenue some careful thought, according to Herbstreit at The Culinary Studio.

"Online was something we were thinking about before this," she says. "We will  certainly consider it seriously moving forward."

About the Author

Andrew Coppolino

Food columnist, CBC Kitchener-Waterloo

Andrew Coppolino is a food columnist for CBC Radio in Waterloo Region. He was formerly restaurant reviewer with The Waterloo Region Record. He also contributes to Culinary Trends and Restaurant Report magazines in the U.S. and is the co-author of Cooking with Shakespeare. A couple of years of cooking as an apprentice chef in a restaurant kitchen helped him decide he wanted to work with food from the other side of the stove.

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