Opportunity at the Natural Gourmet is found, among other places, on the 3rd floor student announcement board. It’s usually filled with information about various opportunities for students to volunteer or work, as well as other culinary points of interest. Postings can appear at any moment, so I have gotten into the habit of checking the board many times a day.
Recently I saw an announcement that read “Looking for cooking assistant to help with a ‘Summertime Superfood: The Essentials of Quinoa’ class at Whole Foods.” I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to learn how to organize classes, since I’m interested in teaching and conducting demonstrations. Oh, and then there’s working at Whole Foods (need I say more). I immediately responded and heard back from Bethany Butler, who was teaching the class. Bethany told me, “I’m looking for more of a co-host than an assistant,” to which I responded enthusiastically, “Perfect, I’m in!”
Over the course of a few weeks Bethany and I worked together on organizing the materials and outlining how the class would be conducted. We decided she would teach the nutritional aspect of the class, while I would take on the chef role. I was able to make valuable contributions to developing the class based upon past culinary experiences and my NGI classes, such as How to Teach a Cooking Class, Math, Recipe Writing, and of course from watching my fabulous instructors teach every day.
We first made a list of learning objectives for the students. At the end of the class we wanted to make sure students 1) understood what quinoa was, 2) knew how to make quinoa, 3) discovered how versatile quinoa was, and 4) had fun.
Our audience was novice cooks, so we had to tailor the class to that level. Culinary terms such as “chiffonade” and “small dice” would require explanation. The culinary staff at Whole Foods was very helpful. They assisted us by giving advice on how other classes were taught at the Center and how to order food for the class.
Finally, July 15th, the big day came. The game plan was I would go to my NGI classes during the day and head over at 4:30 to Whole Foods to help finish prep and get ready to teach at 6pm. Bethany got there early to help set up. I arrived at Whole Foods ready to go. Luckily, I got out of class 10 minutes early, and those 10 minutes meant a lot. I was able to clear my head and relax.
Set-up was going smoothly. I looked at the prepared sheet trays with the ingredients I needed for the demo, I stood back, smiled for a minute, and I thought, “The mise en place was prepared for me! This is the point where the student is the teacher.” At the last minute we had to make some minor changes to the format of the class on the fly. Feeling like actresses with 15 minutes until show time, we were a little nervous but confident that once the students came in we’d be ready.
We were ready. The 2 ½ hours flew by. We were all having a blast. One of the students that simply wanted to sit back and observe started to cook. Bethany went over the nutritional aspects of quinoa and encouraged the students along the way. I gave students tips and tricks on how to cut produce, herbs, etc. One woman was so pleased about learning how to cut a tomato she said, “I got my money’s worth out of this class because of that one tip!”
The class came to an end, bellies were full of quinoa, and the students were excited to go and make their own versions of the recipes. When the students filled out comment cards at the end, I’m pleased to say that they all enjoyed it. One student said, “Good teachers! Great Recipes! Very accommodating to food allergies – meant a lot to me. This class made me want to take more cooking classes”. Mission accomplished!
I have learned from this experience that it does take time to develop and streamline a class. But it gets easier over time. Also, we do know a lot more than we often give ourselves credit for. Lastly, I would encourage all my fellow students to seek out outside opportunity during your time at Natural Gourmet. It helps bridge the gap between what we learn in class and the real world. And, you can meet a great new friend like Bethany along the way.