For instance, you can expect, if attending a 5 or 7-day course to arrive at your chosen class at around 9am ready to learn. You’ll probably be greeted with a tea or coffee and be informed of what you will be doing during the day ahead (menus and recipes may be handed out). Your tutor will most likely run through the recipes for the day, to get you excited to crack on with the practical cooking techniques and elements planned for you.
You will probably work on some savoury recipes over the course of the morning session, which you’ll then get to eat for lunch, followed by more demonstrations and cooking in the afternoon. You may find that a sweet dish is thrown in which you can try out as an afternoon snack with your tea but, in any case, any food you make but don’t eat is yours to take home.
Any food that you make in cooking lessons and don’t eat can be taken home. Photo credit: yoppy on VisualHunt / CC BY
The food that you cook with is provided by the cooking school, funded partly by your payment to them. It is only in very rare cases that you will be given a shopping list to buy items for yourself.
Meanwhile, if you have a passion for cooking and have your heart set on a culinary arts degree, then you might have just started, or be prepared to embark on a term of cooking school next September.
If you want to know how your course will be structured, like how many hours of hands on cooking you will do per week, the ratio of practical vs written work, the recipes that you will work from, etc… then you should contact your admissions office to request the details of the curriculum.
Each course will have their own structure and should be able to give you an old timetable if they haven’t yet released a new one, to give you a better idea of what you might expect.
As an overview, you can expect to learn key cooking skills at the start of your course like basic knife skills (including using them and sharpening them) and general cooking methods before leading on to more complicated aspects of cooking like how to follow recipes or instruction.
For those enrolled on half-day or evening classes, your teacher will obtain the ingredients for you to work with and provide a partial hands on cooking class, which relies heavily on demonstration.
You will probably arrive at your chosen location half an hour before your class to mingle with the other participants and have a light refreshment and appetizers. Once everyone has arrived, your instructor will no doubt give you a brief introduction to the session before moving onto some food preparation techniques. If you have an evening class planned, it may be wise to have brunch in place of a big lunch so that you aren’t too full to enjoy the food on offer.
Most shorter courses (less than half a day) will focus primarily on the various elements of one dish or perhaps two meals that go hand in hand, like a main meal and a dessert or even an accompanying side dish. Meanwhile, your tutor may also advise on food and wine pairings, if they are qualified in this area.
If you’re simply going to an hour-long demonstration, then expect the instructor to focus on a particular element of cooking, like cooking a particular cut of meat or creating a sauce for a Thai style stir fry.
Some of the types of independent cooking classes you can expect to find are those centred around working with chocolate, getting a taste of Italy, vegan cooking classes, authentic Spanish tapas and paella, cooking with herbs and creating bite-sized party foods, and decorating cakes, to name but a few.
Finally, if you have chosen to hire a tutor to teach you how to cook privately, your tutor will usually discuss your requirements with you and might even work with you to structure the block of courses you have paid for.
In any case, they will start by teaching you basic elements of cooking, like explaining the fundamental cookware items, informing you of the essentials to keep in your pantry, showing you how to prepare vegetables and preparing cuts of meat.
You and your private tutor might meet to discuss requirements and then plan sessions in around each of your timetables. Photo on Visualhunt.com
If you have paid for a full term at cookery school, then the chances are that you have paid quite a substantial amount of money on tuition. As such, you should do your best to avoid any absences, which don’t just result in a financial loss, but also in gaps in your learning.
Unfortunately, it can be quite hard to catch up on a class related to cooking, because you cannot recreate the demonstrations performed by your instructor on that day. If you are lucky, however, one of your peers may be able to help you to fill in some of the gaps.
If you foresee any absences, like if you have a family wedding to go to, or if you fall sick, you should contact your tutor immediately to inform them of the cancellation so that they can offer you advice on how best to catch up on cooking methods taught. For instance, you may be able to attend a session held on a different day or even at a different establishment so that you don’t miss vital cooking techniques.
If you happen to be ill on a day that you are booked in to see a private tutor, it is only fair to contact the individual as quickly as possible so that can rearrange their schedule and perhaps even see another pupil in your place.
Remember that they are working for themselves so a missed session for them results in less money in their pocket. If you continue to skip classes or consistently ask to rearrange sessions, your instructor may start to get tired of your lack of organisation and put an end to your tuition.
Similarly, your tutor is not going to be happy if you miss a couple of hours of a five-day course. If you take into consideration the total number of hours of tuition you have, then this will make up a pretty high percentage! Re-book that dentist check-up for another day or make sure that you leave earlier than you need to, to avoid any issues with traffic.
Leave yourself enough time to get to your class, considering peak times for traffic. Photo on Visual hunt
You want to be top of the class, not the class drop out (especially if you are funding the course with hard-earned cash).
Naturally, if you are enrolled on a one-day course, you won’t be given any homework to do, at least nothing that your tutor will later check up on.
Your instructor may, however, give you some activities to try at home in order to further develop your learning. He or she may also give you their contact details and encourage you to speak to them if you have any questions or if you want to send an update on your cooking journey beyond their class.
Don’t be alarmed if the cooking school’s administrative team contacts you before the class with some prep to do beforehand. As most cooks attending the course will be novices, they might simply ask you to brush up on some knowledge before you arrive at class so that everyone enters the classroom on the same page.
For example you might be asked look into the hospitality industry, foods from Italy (like fresh pasta or ravioli) or the art of baking and pastry, depending on the theme of your lesson.
Courses that last a few days or more are more likely to require some additional work, but as a foodie you probably won’t see this as an inconvenience. In fact, if you have a passion for cooking, then being asked to do cooking at home might be just what you want to hear!
Along with some hands on home cooking, your tutor might ask you to do some research or studies into a particular food discipline (which might be different for one student than for another, depending on their interests).
For example, alongside demonstrations taking place during the day, you may be asked to write a short essay on restaurant management, baking artisan bread, making fresh pasta, gluten free cooking, vegetarian cooking, vegan cooking, the history of French cuisine, how to work with chocolate, specialities of Italy, Mediterranean delicacies, pastry arts, the history of traditional British pies, how food and wine work together or the art of cooking with spices, for example.
Rest assured, however, that a vocational cooking class will usually be ungraded, so having attended a short course is more of a personal accomplishment than a professional achievement. That said, students enrolled on courses upwards of a week in duration might see their diploma or qualification as a vital step in their career, and an important achievement to have on their resume.
Regardless of the way you choose to learn to cook, how you perform or what you accomplish along the way, the main thing is to put your all into it and ensure that you do the best that you can do in the time given.
If you wish to learn more about cooking school, take a look at how to find a cooking tutor.