Before the words "pandemic" and "social distancing" became part of our everyday vocabulary, cooking classes were fun nights out that we could spend with friends to learn new recipes, tips and techniques. But the stay-at-home rule changed everything.
Caterers and cooking schools had to reinvent their business models to stay relevant, and now all you have to do is grab your phone, tablet, laptop - whatever means you have of tapping into the World Wide Web - and sign up for a virtual cooking class.
Here's a syllabus for cooking schools offered by culinary artists around the region.
Andrea Cagle, executive chef and owner of Kozy Cooking Catering and Chef Andi's Fresh Bistro, holds office hours via Zoom with classes made to order. Just message her via her website and arrange a class for you and your family or friends.
Themed classes include one-skillet meals, fast and easy meals for the family, pasta, Asian meals, and healthy meals - so far the most popular.
The classes have been well-received, with both novice and seasoned cooks signing on to learn new recipes and try their hands at new techniques. "It's a great way for people to interact in the comfort of their own homes and also a private way for couples to cook together," Cagle says.
Students will get a shopping list of foods they'll need to buy before class begins. Class prices range from $18-$65 depending on the theme and the recipes prepared.
To get in touch with Cagle, go to kozycooking.com, scroll down in the Services section and click on the Let's Eat button.
The Sweet & Savory Classroom
This Main Street cooking school went all-virtual in March, introducing a new way of thinking for husband-and-wife team Jeff and Heather Pennypacker.
With restrictions lifting, they are now combining virtual with in-person classes. "The potential is amazing because someone could literally be cooking with us in the classroom and have friends and family join them from anywhere virtually," Jeff Pennypacker says. "Everyone who is in-person and virtual will be cooking the same thing and be able to talk with each other."
The Pennypackers realized an unexpected bonus when they went virtual. "We've had countless emails and responses from our virtual customers that they've learned how to conquer their home kitchen by cooking virtually with us," he says. "Others have expressed how we've helped their families bond during the lockdown. Others have expressed how we have helped them fight off depression by cooking with them virtually."
The classes focus on a variety of foods, from Thai to burgers-and-bourbon, Spanish tapas to French macarons. In all, the curriculum covers more than 120 topics, set up so that teachers and students can interact and have fun just as they would if they were all in the kitchen together.
Prices start at $35. You can opt to shop in advance for your own ingredients or you can pick up what you need for an additional charge at Sweet & Savory's location at 45 E. Main St. Several classes are offered each month on both weeknights and weekends. Check out the schedule at sweetandsavoryclassroom.com.
Dish T' Pass
Having taught virtual classes for The Chattery for the past few months, Amanda Nelson Varnell "zoomed" out on her own beginning in early September with her Dish T' Pass cooking classes. There are two types of programming: themed cooking classes, and one specifically focusing on the family dinner table which offers basic cooking skills, weeknight cooking hacks, menu planning and ways to maximize your use of seasonal produce. Membership offers a lot of bang for the buck - access to two livestream cooking classes per month; access to an active online community with a monthly topic and live Q&As and an email newsletter highlighting ingredients and equipment needed for classes. The monthly fee of $30 will also let you dive a little deeper into the chosen monthly topic and offer the latest food news and special offers for additional specialty cooking classes.
If you want to start off slow, you can sign up for individual classes and webinars beginning at $10.
"Cooking in your own home on your own equipment is a fabulous way to support today's home cook," Varnell says. "Providing an opportunity for more participants in each class and creating an actual community for our clients to connect with one another outside of class adds support and will encourage the success of their family dinner table journey."
For more information, log onto dishtpass.com.
You can chat it up online at one of The Chattery's popular cooking classes. Whether it's an interactive class where you can cook or mix a cocktail with a creative mixologist or a demonstration by a local chef, you're sure to add a new recipe to your culinary repertoire. Class size is kept small - around 15 people - so questions can be asked and ideas shared easily. Classes are taught by a number of different chefs, including Sierra Stollenwerk of Sierra's Cakewerks (baking); UT Extension Agent June Puett (food preservation); Kaleena Goldsworthy of The Bitter Bottle (beverages); Mary Haymaker of Chattavore (Instant Pot and air fryer cooking); and cookbook author and Instant Pot expert Laurel Randolph (cooking/meals).
The Chattery, a nonprofit organization, offers fun, affordable classes for adults and uses Zoom as its teaching platform. When the pandemic ends, virtual classes will continue in addition to in-person classes, creating a hybrid classroom so that those living outside of town, as well as others who find it difficult to attend in person, can participate. Virtual classes have proven to be a convenient method for continuing The Chattery's educational mission, says operations director Jennifer Holder.
Classes range from $15-$20. Register online at thechattery.org.
Dalton Creative Arts Guild
Chef Jasa Joseph brings the culinary arts to life for Zoom cooking classes hosted by the Creative Arts Guild in Dalton, Georgia. As the pandemic continues and people are tuning into virtual cooking classes, hers are becoming increasingly popular, particularly among groups wanting to spend some virtual time together, such as Sunday School classes, family groups and grandparents with their grandkids.
"Many have been cooking for years," says Leanne Martin, operations and events coordinator. "They've joined our classes to experiment with new recipes, themed meals and to learn new cooking techniques and tips."
Among the more popular topics is Brunch-In, a Sunday morning class. Other classes are held on weekday evenings, with cooking classes for kids typically held midafternoon. Among the favorites for adults are Taco Tuesday and Virtual Date Night-In. For kids, Family Dinner - Give Mom a Night Off; Spaghetti and Homemade Meatballs; Kids Baking in the Kitchen with Chef Jasa; and Grands' Dinner Together.
Prices for adult classes are $25 per household; children's classes are $15-$20. For more information, call the Guild at 706-217-6677 or visit creativeartsguild.org.
Ad Hoc Supper Club
Gather with friends for a dinner party of eight to 20 and let chef Charlie Loomis, formerly executive chef at The Feed Co., help you virtually prepare your dinner. Loomis, you may recall, bested celebrity chef Bobby Flay in a January episode of Food Network's popular "Beat Bobby Flay" cooking competition.
Loomis will Zoom into your home to show you how to make dishes such as Nashville hot chicken. Or maybe you want to host a themed dinner? Try his menu for "Summer in Paris" or "A Picnic in Tuscany." If you're looking to shed those pounds you've gained during the pandemic, he has some healthful recipes to share, too.
Once you've signed up at adhocsupperclub.com, recipes and a shopping list will be emailed to you five days in advance of each class, which cost $40.