I am struggling to find affordable, group cooking lessons where you're not going to learn to make ONE specific dinner dish. Seems that private lessons may be the only way.

Anyone else do this? I'm looking at cost comparisons for where I live.

  • Hello, and welcome to Stack Exchange. We aren't a discussion forum; we're focused on having questions and answers. That said, I don't see what question you're asking that could have a single good answer. Please check out our Help pages for more info. – Daniel Griscom Oct 9 at 21:19
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    Welcome! I think it'd be fine to ask about what this sort of class might be called and how to search for it. The world's too big for us to really be able to provide specific recommendations, unfortunately. Could you edit your question and clarify exactly what you're looking for? – Cascabel Oct 9 at 21:28
  • How do you expect an answer if we don't even know where you live. Group cooking lesson learn one a night and will pretty much always be cheaper than a private lesson. You are not going to learn it all in one lesson – paparazzo Oct 10 at 2:53
  • With the change I suggested, we don't need to know where you live. We just need to know exactly what you're looking for - you mention both group and private. – Cascabel Oct 10 at 13:08

Provision is highly variable. The major city nearest me has a comprehensive adult education programme which includes cookery courses over several sessions and single topic lessons. But where I live there's nothing provided by the local authority. When they do exist, these courses can be quite affordable.

I have also come across a restaurant that doubled as a cookery school, but it closed last year. They tended to run one-off sessions but overall covered quite a range of foods, and there were sessions most weeks for a while.

There's quite a range of cookery schools in the UK, but these are often aimed more at people who want to be chefs than at enthusiasts. Some however (often based around a restaurant or hotel) run weekend residential courses on particular topics (for example the River Cottage). For a price of course, and not a small one. You can even combine this with a holiday to a region famed for its food, such as Tuscany, and learn to cook the local specialities.

At perhaps the more accessible end of the market, I know of a major organic farm that currently runs single sessions but I'm sure has run courses in the past.

Depends on the level of interaction you are looking for, or if you just want to see the techniques, hear an explanation, and get the recipes.

Online or TV would be the way to go if you don't need the personal interaction.

An online subscription to America's Test Kitchen would give you access to their entire archive of recipe PDFs, and many season's of video archives for their shows, where you can watch them explain and demonstrate specific recipes, and they tend to follow a huge cross-section of types of dishes, desserts, appetizers and ethnic styles.

Otherwise, there are cable TV networks specifically tailored for this, along with companion web sites, and certainly there are YouTube channels that would fit the bill, as well.

  • This is absolutely the best option for affordability and availability. The main downside is a lack of equipment to practice with before deciding whether to invest in kitchen tools (chef knife, various pots and pans, appliances, etc.), but at least starting with online tutorials is a great idea. – Erica Oct 10 at 19:22
  • @Erica - Very true. At least, for the America's Test Kitchen, they also have comprehensive equipment reviews and recommendations, in terms of performance, quality, and price. In the magazines they do the reviews in the same magazine volume to match with recipes that feature the use of certain types of equipment, and I think, online, they'll often mention/link to the reviews. – PoloHoleSet Oct 10 at 19:27
  • The other downside is that there's no one to correct you when you're making a mistake or help when you have problems. And there's a subscription service for online cooking videos that I think are more step-by-step (someone mentioned it on here years ago), as some folks will gloss over something critically important (because it's tacit knowledge) in videos if they're not specifically prepared for beginners. – Joe Oct 12 at 12:35
  • Found it ... rouxbe.com . Also, ChefSteps.com, but that one seems more recipe-focused than skills focused. But you might be able to ping Michael at Herbavoracious about that one) – Joe Oct 12 at 12:48
  • @Joe - The America's Test Kitchen demonstrates, pretty thoroughly, all of their techniques for their video presentations. I'll definitely check out the links you offered. Thanks! – PoloHoleSet Oct 12 at 14:30

In addition to the other excellent recommendations on this question, I wanted to suggest some additional affordable options for new cooks in the United States (the OP profile doesn't include a location). Particularly, these are options for training in an equipped kitchen.

  1. Community Colleges: local community colleges often have a hospitality school, and the option to just take single courses instead of enrolling as a full-time student. Some even have full "adult education" programs that may include more intriguing cuisines in evening classes. Best, community college tuition is subsidized, and can cost as little as $50 per course depending on your location and local government support. If you are looking to learn "the basics" this is probably your best option.
  2. Sur le Table, Williams-Sonoma, and other Cookware Retailers: if you live in a large city, many high-end cookware retailers have demonstration kitchens where they have a schedule of one-night or one-day cooking classes. These are a little more expensive than community college ($60 to $120 here in Portland), but may be easier on your schedule and often cover exotic or trendy cuisines.
  3. Some Community Centers, if you have one near you, offer occasional cooking classes taught by local residents. The defintion of "community center" is broad; this can be a neighborhood Recreation Center, a County Fairgrounds, a public library, or even a Hacker Space (I used to teach cooking lessons at Noisebridge in SF). This is probably your cheapest option, ranging from free to cost-of-materials, although often they are not hands-on.
  4. If you are lucky enough to live somewhere there's an ethnic hall of some kind (e.g. Swedish Community Hall, La Raza Center, Phillipino Heritage Center, etc.) they may have cooking lessons in their ethnic cuisine. This can be a terrific, and very inexpensive, way to learn unusual dishes, but has the same limitation of probably not being hands-on.
  • Hmmm .... #4 .... now I have to go looking in my area for those. And I wish #1 had more options around here. They just built a culinary building at the community college not too far from me, but the courses are to supply the local hotels and casinos not so much for home chefs. But something where you're taking a series of courses (4+ weeks) is typically going to come out cheaper than a bunch of single classes. – Joe Oct 12 at 12:32
  • I'm lucky enough that PCC has "extension" classes that are just 1-3 lessons, in the evenings or on weekends. – FuzzyChef Oct 12 at 21:24

tl;dr : find people who cook, learn from them.

...

In some countries, there is the tradition of 'cooking clubs'. Basically, a group of people (usually friends) get together and cook a meal. The less experienced people get a chance to learn from the more experienced, and you can pass along regional specialties.

They're often more social things than just educational, and from what I've read about them, they're often unisex (all females or all males). They take a few different forms -- getting together once a month at someone's house, or some larger kitchen space that someone has access to. If it's people's houses, it might rotate who hosts. There's usually some plan ahead of time on what to make, and shopping chores are either divvied up, or one person does the shopping and everyone chips in to cover the costs.

Note that this is different from 'dinner clubs' where a meal is planned, but people do the bulk of work at their own homes and then bring them to the host's house to finish cooking it.

Because they're social constructs, you typically either have to either get invited into one, or start one yourself.

...

But there's also family ... if you have get together for big meals (either at Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, whatever other religious holidays, birthdays, grandparent's anniversary, stuff like that, offer to help out. When I was a kid, the big holidays were at my great grandmother's house about two hours away, so my mom (the oldest of her generation) would go up a day or two before and help start preparing the food with some of her cousins who lived nearby.

As I got older (around 10 or 12, as we didn't move back to the area 'til just before I turned 11, and she died when I was 15), I got assigned tasks, too. (setting the table, wrapping prosciutto around chunks of melon or other assembly, stirring sauces, etc.)

As we didn't have any females in my generation 'til I was 13 or so, my great grandmother decided that she was going to teach my brothers and I to cook ... so when we'd get together at other times, we helped out. My mom's uncle had a vacation home near the ocean, so we'd go there for a week, and my great grandmother would have us help her.

These days, as my cousin's birthday and mine are both near Labor Day, my mom and step father (about 30 mins from me) go and visit my aunt, uncle and cousins (about 5 hrs away) for the long weekend. We drive down on Friday, hit a huge farmer's market (another hour plus away) on Saturday, then spend the weekend cooking, eating, hanging out, etc. until late Monday morning.

...

So, how does this help you?

Well, you can ask your friends if they're interested in starting a cooking club. If someone's already in one and it's not too crowded already, they might invite you to join.

If you still have relatives (who cook) within an hour or so of where you live, you might talk about getting together for dinner once a month or so ... you offer to bring food and to help cook it. Although, it's better if you can make a day of it, so you can go shopping together ... they can show you how to select produce, and deal with any substitutions if something can't be found.

If you don't have relatives that fit the bill, maybe one of your friend's relatives could work. (either ask your friends who might be interested in cooking, or maybe if you're close enough to their family, ask directly)

And if none of those work, look for volunteer opportunities .... church dinners (if it's cooked communally and not pot-luck), soup kitchens, stuff like that.

If you really strike out, you might even look to see if there's a Sikh temple nearby. They have a tradition of communal cooking and meals and from what (little) I know of the religion, I suspect that they would let you help.

It's possible that 4H, recreation centers, or local schools might have cooking classes for kids. If they do, and you find that you have enough friends who are interested in learning to cook, you might approach them (or the home ec. teacher at the school) about teaching a class for adults. Or approach any senior centers in your area about an activity for the seniors -- passing down their knowledge to others.

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