|Marcia Smart, a graduate of Tante Marie’s Cooking School in San Francisco, teaches hands-on cooking classes from her home kitchen. Her classes focus on helping home cooks get easy, mostly healthy, weeknight meals on the table. Some students are beginners, others are experienced home cooks.
Many times, she opens class with a demonstration on how to dice an onion. Most classes prepare six recipes, so pairs of students each make one dish. When they sit down for the meal, they discuss what they made, what they learned and any surprises.
Marcia sits down and eats with her students. She loves inviting people into her home and showing them that entertaining can be less fussy and formal.
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Marcia handles all the registrations and cancellations. Her following was built through word of mouth and asking people to sign up for newsletter emails at every opportunity. She started out years ago by just emailing a group of about 40 people. Eventually the email list got too long, and she switched to MailChimp.
She sends out a monthly email newsletter and usually receives a strong immediate response. She responds to the first 12 people to let them know they are “in,” and they send her their payment to reserve their spot. Usually there are three or four people on the waitlist. If the waitlist is big enough, she adds a second class with the same menu.
Twelve students are the ideal size for her classes, which run from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. She charges $100 per person for her home-based classes, and $125 per person, if she teaches from others’ homes. There is a 10-person minimum for a class to go forward. Because she has many repeat clients, most classes offer a different menu.
Marcia recommends checking LegalZoom.com when setting up your home-based cooking school. She has an umbrella insurance policy.
While she does not have an assistant during class, she does use a part-time assistant for business-related tasks a couple times a month. She employs a helper to clean before class, and she also comes after class to clean up the dishes.
Marcia bought a set of dishes and silverware from Ikea for classes and uses paper napkins. She puts out a pitcher of water and sparkling water during class.
“My advice for prospective home-based cooking teachers is to just do it,” says Marcia, “You learn by doing, and the more experience you gain from teaching, the more confident you will become. If you’re just starting out and you’ve never taught cooking classes, invite friends for a free class. Treat it just as you would a regular class and ask for feedback afterwards.”