Why Do Cooking Classes Make Good Gifts?
Cooking classes can be a great gift for that special someone in your life. It doesn’t matter whether they’re interested in all things culinary, or if they think the oven is just another place to store shoes – developing cooking skills can be a fun and interactive way to spend some time together. And with the rising interest in the culinary field, there are hundreds of different types of classes and cuisines to choose from.
For over 20 years I've been teaching myself how to cook and writing about what I've learned here on the ReluctantGourmet.com website. At first I did it out of necessity when I lived alone and "had to eat so I learned how to cook so I could eat well" but after I married a women who is a wonderful cook, it became a hobby that I just continued enjoyed doing.
Looking back at some of my earliest posts, I realize I could have done myself a favor by taking some local cooking classes. Living in New York City, there were plenty of places I could have attended but I was stubborn and wanted to teach myself by reading cookbooks and cooking magazines and trying to recreate what I was learning. At that time, Food Network was just a couple of years old and there weren't that many foodie websites on the Internet. I don't believe cooking blogs even existed back then.
So here is a very brief snapshot showing some of the places where you can find cooking classes and how they differ. Of course if you are interested in going to culinary school to become a professional chef, baker, pastry chef or become a restaurant manager, you'll find lots of resources at Culinary School Articles and be able to find a selection of culinary schools near you at Culinary, Baking & Hospitality Management Schools.
Where to Find Cooking Classes?
If you’re giving a cooking class as a gift, it’s best to find a program that caters to amateurs. Most of these types of classes bring in a variety of skill levels, so it doesn’t matter how much hands-on training you have.
Depending on where you live, you should be able to find cooking classes from local:
Community college continuing education programs: These non-credit classes are usually designed for seniors and the average consumer. The cost tends to be minimal, and the class itself will probably only run once a week.
Culinary schools: Many culinary schools diversify their own offerings by including one-time cooking courses for those not enrolled in their traditional program. Some of these courses might also be accredited for professional chefs.
Restaurants: Some smaller, chef-owned restaurants will offer culinary courses between lunch and dinner. This is especially great if you or a loved one is a fan of this particular eatery.
My wife and I belonged to a group that would find restaurants normally closed on Friday and have the chef prepare a menu that 10 couples could try to prepare with their help. It was a ton of fun and we met some very interesting people including some very interesting chefs.
Private chefs: One of the fastest-growing trends is to invite a private chef over to your house to teach a personal course in cooking. When done in a party setting with plenty of friends and good wine, this can be a really fun and interactive experience. I have not done this yet but would love to. Where are you Chef Ricco Deluca?
What Types of Cooking Classes are There?
It’s best to choose a cooking class that matches the person you’ll be giving the gift to. Ethnic cuisine courses (like Ethiopian or Thai food) can be a great way to diversify your cooking skills in ways that you might not ever get a chance to otherwise.
Just make sure you pick a cuisine that you know your friend will enjoy. You don't want to be sending one of your vegetarian friends to a class on grilling steaks.
More traditional courses (like baking or knife skills) can be a great gift for a recent high school graduate getting ready to strike out on his or her own for the first time. Other courses like wine and food pairings or the art of barbecue can be personalized for someone who you know loves a good glass of Cabernet Sauvignon or slab of steak (or both!).
If possible, set up the cooking class gift with a gift certificate or other transferable options, since there may be a time investment involved, and you might not know for certain what your loved one has available. You can also supplement the gift with some great kitchen utensils that match the cooking course you chose.
After all, learning to cook great food is made even better when you can repeat the experience at home on your own!