I want to teach some Caribbean cooking classes. How do I get started? How much should I charge? How many students should I have in class?
– Debbie McGee, Chef/Owner, Delightful Dee Catering, Powder Springs, GA
Teaching cooking classes seems like a natural for many chefs and restaurateurs. After all, much of your job involves training staff and communicating to guests. Further, a class can offer a secondary revenue stream and promotion for your primary business.
That’s the good side. What operators struggle with a bit more is that most catering and restaurant kitchens are designed specifically for production. Running a class introduces a new series of challenges: do you have enough space to give a group of people a hands-on experience? Will cooks have to meet production goals alongside “foodies” taking a class? What if someone gets hurt—students are not covered by worker’s comp and are not acting as traditional guests? What if the health department drops by during class time—will students be up to code? Does your jurisdiction permit non-employees in the kitchen? These questions are sufficiently cumbersome that in most cases I would advise against offering classes in a restaurant kitchen or catering commissary.
Increasingly, restaurants, hotels and cruise ships are building spaces specifically for teaching cooking. Short of that kind of investment, I would start with your local community college or adult education center. Typically they have space (including kitchen space in many cases) and can advise on what the market will bear in terms of price, class size, and topics. I once worked with a dean whose mantra for such classes was, “It only costs ink and paper,” to offer it. If successful, you can share the revenue with the school. If enrollment lags, change the price or topic and try again! Working with an established school has the added advantage of getting your name out to a new market—the school’s mailing list, in addition to your loyal regulars.