JMJ99 *Choose and test the recipes, I suggest one month at a time. Select an entree, side dish, and dessert, or else one recipe for each group. I would go through quite a few recipes in my “test kitchen” before I would find ones that were perfect for the club.
Ring the School Bell 99/180 days
I will be honest with you here. As the reader hopefully knows by now, every school day, I have been journaling the events of a very special school year, from a few years ago. Well, I got to Day 99 of my notes, and there was nothing there, so I actually have no idea what happened on that day, beyond the fact that we had meals and did some academics.
I have been thinking about sharing something our family enjoyed hosting for 3 years, a cooking club. Currently, we have a crafting workshop once a month, but that is a whole other story.
Our family loves to cook. We love to eat good homemade food. So why not share this love with others?
When Sarah began high school, we brainstormed ideas for a club which she might want to start. The idea of a cooking club kept resurfacing, and finally I agreed to it. At the time, I could not find any internet resources on how to go about this, so I just came up with my own model. It can be adapted to any age, child through adult.
Hopefully this model will help you get started on your culinary adventure!
How to Start a Cooking Club
This is how we did it, and on the way, refined our palates and became better chefs. This is a great club to encourage kids to love cooking, a lost art in many families.
- Select a theme. Choose it yourself, with some input from the head chef, in this case, my daughter Sarah. We picked world cuisine the first year. The second year we chose American regional cuisine, and fandom-themed menus for the third year.
- Decide on dues, as well as when and where you would like to meet. We settled in on $5/child per session, but that might have been a little low, as I dipped into my own pocket several times. Try to keep it as affordable as possible, but not so minimal that you have to make your own personal contributions every month. Try to collect all the dues at once, at the beginning of the year. It is easier to budget this way, as I learned, and easier accounting. For example, $50/year. We met at my home, once a month, on Friday afternoons for about 3 hours. If you decide to meet more frequently, make sure and consider the prep involved: researching recipes, testing the menu, and shopping for groceries.
- Advertise the group, but not too much, or else you may end up with 100 kids who want to join the club. This is a very high interest area among parents and children. I sent out an email to our homeschool group of moms, and basically made it first come, first serve, up to 15 kids. I made the age parameters 12 and up, since that was the age of my kids, but you can adjust the ages accordingly as you wish. I would suggest having one parent volunteer for each 4 or 5 kids if they are younger than 12, and then get a commitment from these parents before the club actually begins. Take a look at what your house can manage. In my situation, I figured three groups of five kids each (for 3 cooking stations). For the surplus kids who wanted to be in the club, I suggested my “cooking school model” to their moms and encouraged them to start a club of their own.
- Choose and test the recipes, I suggest one month at a time. Choose an entree, side dish, and dessert, or else one recipe for each group. I would go through quite a few recipes in my “test kitchen” before I would find ones that were perfect for the club. As I tried the recipes, I kept in mind such considerations, as how long it took to prepare the recipe from beginning to end. I can not emphasize enough, the importance of testing the recipes before the meetings. A cooking club is not just about cooking, but being introduced to many kinds of foods. For instance, Mary, one our cooking students, had never tasted sushi, and now enjoys making her own version at home. Address allergy and sensitivity concerns while choosing the recipes. Many times the recipes can be adapted to suit special needs.
- Build groups. Consider personalities, and friendships. We liked to make it a meal each time, so to be efficient, we broke up into groups of 5, each group preparing one of the recipes for the day. Assistant chefs headed the groups, showing the rest how to prepare the recipe. (Before the meetings, the assistant chefs had the opportunity to try the recipe themselves in order to be prepared to teach it to the others) If you like this model, you can put parent volunteers in charge of the groups if your young chefs are a bit too young to be in charge just yet.
- Keep a reward point system, for added fun. We kept a point system for rewards at the end of the year, for things such as bringing your cooking binder, volunteering to be an assistant chef (group leader), and for cooking recipes at home.
- Meet with assistant chefs before each club meeting, and actually have them do a run-through of the recipe, so they are prepared to teach it to their group. By this time, you should be working with a fine-tuned recipe. Think like a Food Network production, and chop everything beforehand as much as possible, so that the focus can be on putting together the dish in the somewhat limited time frame. Plus, you want to have a little time to sit down, relax with each other, and enjoy the meal which you have all prepared together.
One major piece of advice is try to keep it as simple as possible. In other words, focus on cooking.
The first year I planned related games, crafts, and decorations each time, which the kids loved but I totally ran out of steam and was ready to quit by Christmas!
A cooking club is one of those endeavors that create memories to last a lifetime, and provides enrichment as well as practical instruction to our chefs of the future.
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** Note to the Reader- Today’s narrative is an excerpt of our family’s school journey from a few years ago, during my eldest daughter’s senior year in high school, a rather emotional year, with its many ups and downs.
May God shower blessings on your family as he has on mine. Annette