Teaching Cooking in the 21st Century

Cooking Schools and Teachers

by SHEILA CRYE

It’s not easy to make a living as a cooking teacher! If you work for a cooking school, or if you provide after-school cooking programs, or if you run summer cooking camps and host cooking lesson birthday parties–it’s all part-time employment.

Self-employed practitioners spend a lot of time marketing our classes and programs, not to mention shopping for groceries, traveling back and forth to the class, and laundering the dishtowels afterward. Each gig is a project, and in between, we’re unemployed.

We teach cooking, because we believe it is a valuable skill to share, despite the difficulties. Here are a few tips to consider, if you are interested to learn what your colleagues are doing:

  • If you are considering funding youth programs with grant funds, be prepared to account for every penny you spend—every line item of your budget. Many government funders today want to see how you spend the grant and will only reimburse you for your actual expenses.
  • Find out who is teaching cooking in your local area and how much they charge. Most classes are two, three or four hours long. If a three-hour class costs $99, it is $33/hour/participant. Knowing what your colleagues charge helps you stay within a similar range.
  • Where are cooking teachers working in your area? Instead of asking customers to go to a cooking school, go to where communities gather. Community recreations centers, former home economics classrooms in schools, church kitchens, libraries and hospitals are all potential venues.
  • Farmers markets and community events are great for providing culinary demonstrations, but they should be considered as marketing efforts to raise your profile as a cooking teacher. If you give samples (and why wouldn’t you?), you will need to purchase a temporary event license from the local health department and submit a diagram showing how you will conform to basic food safety practices.
  • Consider using your home kitchen as a venue, if it is conducive to teaching. Health departments refuse to inspect home kitchens, but they do not aggressively penalize home cooking teachers. Pop-up cooking classes and parties for children, youth or adults are fun to do, especially when you do not have to transport every single tool and grocery item somewhere else.

If you have tips to share with us cooking teacher colleagues and friends, please use the Facebook IACP Cooking Schools and Teachers page to continue this discussion. We can learn much about the real business of teaching cooking from one another’s experience.

Excerpted from the Winter 2017 edition of the IACP Cooking Schools and Teachers newsletter. Read the full issue here.


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