How to Offer Private Cooking Lessons

Private cooking lessons are one way to increase interest in your cuisine and encourage people to eat at your restaurant. When you offer cooking classes at your restaurant, you have complete autonomy and can decide how much you want your customers and students to be involved. Because your customers love your food so much, some of them will want to learn more about your cuisine and hear advice from the master. Others will find lessons entertaining because they'll get to watch you cook and get to eat the meal afterwards. As a bonus, it's extra revenue for you! If you're interested in offering classes, there are a few things you should consider first.

Frequency

Depending on your availability, you will have to choose how often to host lessons. You could offer a lesson once to see how popular it is, and then continue with them if you get good feedback. Some chefs offer cooking classes once a month, while others host repeated classes for patrons who want to hear more about their expertise and technique.

Cost

As for the cost of private cooking lessons, this will depend on what you plan to serve, how involved your guests become, and the type of dining experience people expect from your restaurant. Base your rates on the extra amount of supplies you need and how much technique you're sharing with students. Are you in the city or the suburbs? Do you offer casual fare or fine French cuisine? All of these factors will impact your price.

Number of People

Make cooking lessons open to a designated amount of people. Maybe you love the idea of twenty people in your kitchen doing small prep tasks and learning basic techniques. On the other hand, you might prefer the idea of five people in your kitchen, so there's less distraction. Whatever your maximum limit, be sure to stick to it when people ask about available openings. If people call your restaurant asking for a lesson and you don't have any room, simply thank them for their interest and tell them to try again when your next lesson comes up.

Materials

For groups that will be helping you cook, consider buying supplies that are separate from what you typically use in the kitchen. This way, you don't need to worry about a customer ruining your favorite chef's knife or piano whip. When the event is over, you can wash everything and store it in an area for cooking lesson supplies only. Aprons, mixing bowls, extra knives, and cutting boards are some food prep basics that can help with cooking classes in your restaurant. You can also provide recipe print-outs so customers can take notes and remember what they helped you prepare.

Liability

If you decide to have customers cook with you, consider having a liability agreement for them to sign when they arrive in case anything was to happen. Someone could cut a finger, or a sack of flour could fall on someone's head. You never know. That being said, you shouldn't let inexperienced cooks operate your equipment, whether it's your gas range or your commercial mixer, because they could hurt themselves or damage your equipment. It's best to have customers do basic prep tasks and to help them with their technique.

Involvement

For those fearless chefs who want to help customers learn basic techniques, it's a good idea to set up individual stations for each guest. If you don't have the room for that in your kitchen, you can set up fewer stations and let customers take turns. Show them how to hold a knife correctly, chop an onion consistently, marinate a tasty piece of meat, or properly mix cake ingredients.

Not comfortable with customers using your supplies? Invite them to watch you prepare a meal instead. They can ask questions about how to do it, the ingredients you use, and your technique. This will reduce the number of dishes you need to wash, and you won't need to keep an eye on multiple inexperienced cooks. Nevertheless, you'll still provide an opportunity for customers to ask specific questions and see how to prepare a delicious meal first-hand.

At the end of your cooking lesson, share the meal you've prepared with all of your guests. Customers will love telling their friends they helped make dinner at a restaurant, and they'll encourage more people to join your cooking classes. Just be sure to advertise your private cooking lessons in your restaurant, on flyers, on social media, and on your website. It's unique to find a restaurant that will open its kitchen doors to amateurs, so you could become the trendsetter on your block!

Posted in: Features | By Melissa Walters

Satisfy the Whole Family with a Healthy Kids Menu

The rapid approach of warmer weather makes spring a great time to remember the importance of a healthy diet. Customers are constantly bombarded with messages that cause them to worry about their own health, and with the growing childhood obesity epidemic, they must also monitor what their kids are eating. According to the CDC, 12.7 million children in the United States were obese from 2011-2012. This is alarming, but as a restaurant owner, you can do your part to help while positively impacting your business. This spring, use these kids menu ideas to differentiate your restaurant from all of your chicken-nuggets-and-fries-offering competitors, and feel good about helping to teach children life-long healthy habits.

Cut Calories from their Favorites

Some kids are notorious picky eaters. If you’re concerned about your tiny customers losing interest in your offerings after you remove calorie laden dishes from your kids menu, try revamping some of their old favorites. This chicken tender recipe contains only a fraction of the fat from traditional tenders and is sure to please the choosiest of eaters. For children who can’t give up fatty cheeseburgers, create lean turkey sliders and serve on mini whole wheat rolls. Chances are that kids won’t even know they’re eating something low in calories. On the side, sneak in healthy vegetables with these baked sweet potato fries that will make children forget all about the deep fried white potato version.

Try Something New

For your adventurous pint-sized diners, add some nutritious choices that wouldn't typically be found on a kids menu. Quinoa is a versatile, protein packed, gluten free grain that can be served as a side dish in place of starchy white pasta to children and adults alike. Instead of serving vegetables with fatty, nutrient-lacking ranch dressing, let children dip into a serving of fiber rich hummus for an option that’s both delicious and nutritious. Don’t forget to use fun, kid-friendly names for these exploratory dishes so that your little customers get excited to try something new!

Get Creative

Kids love food that takes on wacky shapes or colors. Instead of providing them with greasy dinosaur shaped nuggets, try something more nutritious, but equally tasty and exciting. Try presenting your smallest guests with grilled chicken quesadillas (made with a whole wheat tortilla and low fat cheese) cut into bite sized shapes with a side of colorful fruit arranged into a smiley face on the side. There are no limits on creativity when it comes to creating healthy recipes for kids. Bring out your inner artist when plating your kids meals and your servers are sure to see lots of little smiles.

Put Soft Drinks in their Place

Fizzy, sugary sodas have their place, and it’s not on your children’s menu. The super sweet stuff can be fine in moderation for adults, but growing kids don’t need all of the caffeine and calories. Offer something more nutritious for young customers, like low fat milk, 100% fruit juice, water, or even colorful whole fruit smoothies! Kids will enjoy the different options, and parents will appreciate you for keeping their youngsters from a sugar rush.

Consider Making it Official

If you want to ensure that you’re getting the most of your healthy kids menu, consider joining the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell program. Started in 2011, the program works to ensure that parents can easily find restaurants with healthy options for their children. Participating restaurants must provide kids menus that follow strict nutritional guidelines that limit the number of calories, fat, sugar, and sodium allowed in a meal. Restaurateurs must also provide at least one healthy side as part of a full children’s meal. In return, owners may advertise their participation in the program and draw on the wealth of health conscious customers looking for the best option for their children.

Kids may be small, but in the restaurant world, they shouldn't be overlooked. Help parents forge healthy habits for their children by showing them that wholesome food can be tasty too! By providing your youngest guests with nourishing options that they enjoy eating, your restaurant is sure to become a favorite for the whole family.

Posted in: Features | By Sabrina Bomberger

March Madness Food Frenzy Bracket

In the spirit of March Madness, we've decided to host a little friendly competition to determine which region is home to our customers' favorite food! We've created a Food Frenzy bracket that's divided into four regions: Northwest, Southwest, Northeast, and Southeast. We've started with four picks for each region, and now it's up to you to vote.

Food Frenzy Bracket

How It Will Work

  1. First round will narrow it down to two picks per region, leaving us with the Elite Eight. For example, in round one, choose either Italian roast beef sandwich or baked potato and smoked salmon or bratwurst, giving you two picks from each region.
  2. Second round will narrow it down to one pick per region, narrowing it down to the Final Four.
  3. Third round the Northwest will battle the Southwest, and the Northeast will battle the Southeast.
  4. Final round the winner of the West division will battle the winner of the East division, as we watch to see who will take it to the cup...or the plate, in this case!

Rules

  1. Check out Facebook every Wednesday and Monday, starting today, and leave your vote in the comment section.
  2. First round, you have eight picks.
  3. Second round, you have four picks,
  4. Third round, you have two picks.
  5. Fourth round, you have one pick.
  6. You can only vote for your picks once per round.
  7. Round 1 voting begins today, Wednesday, March 18. You will have until midnight Sunday, March 22 to vote.
  8. Round 2 voting begins Monday, March 23. You will have until midnight Tuesday, March 24 to vote.
  9. Round 3 voting begins Wednesday, March 25. You will have until midnight Sunday, March 29 to vote.
  10. Final round of voting begins Monday, March 30. You will have until midnight Tuesday, March 31 to vote.
  11. The winner will be announced Wednesday, April 1!


Ready, game on!

Posted in: Features | By Ashley Kufera

The Top 5 Best Places Around the World to Celebrate St. Patrick's Day

Despite its origins as a religious holiday, centuries of celebrating St. Patrick's Day has earned it a worldwide reputation for intoxicated merriment, city-wide parties, and all things green. With parades, beer, and the same inebriated friend telling you a boring, half-formed story of how their great-great grandfather emigrated from Galway, everybody is a little bit Irish on March 17. But even with these universal ties, the different nuances among the world's cultures craft countless unique, exciting experiences across the globe. Some places hold parties. Others change the colors of their rivers. And still others are simply out of this world.

So to speak…

5. Tokyo, Japan

Even though they're on opposite sides of the planet, Japan celebrates Ireland with all of the eagerness and joy of the redheaded homeland. They also throw in a few festivities of their own to bump the celebration up to an entirely new level. This level happens to include basics like beer (naturally), "conceptually adventurous" additions like full-body leprechaun costumes, and cultural crossovers like green samurai, because why not? They also enjoy marching bands, police mascots, en masse dog walks, and a huge pub crawl — all in a city of 36.9 million.

St. Patrick's Celebration in Tokyo, Japan

For reference, New York City has around 20 million residents. Ireland — the whole country — has 4.6 million. That means if everyone in Tokyo celebrates Irish heritage for just one second of the day, roughly ten times more Japanese people are enjoying a holiday than the entire population of Ireland itself. That's a lot of emerald love from a long ways away.

Aside from existing as one of the most surprising cultural mash-ups since the ramen cheeseburger, St. Patrick's Day in Japan is a major celebration of all the fire-haired culture someone could want. And even though the Japanese have only observed the holiday since 1992, in terms of culture it's become more relevant than Danny Boy and hotter than shepherd's pie. Besides — who can resist a sake bomb in a Killian's?

4. Chicago, USA

St. Patrick's Celebration in Chicago with a green river

Roughly 7% of Chicago's population claims some ancestral tie to the Promised Land of Endless Guinness. While that leaves a huge majority of non-Irish in the city limits, that doesn't stop the city from enjoying one of the largest St. Patrick's Day celebrations in the United States. Chicago is most famous for kicking off the holiday by dyeing its river a bright, fluorescent green that is typically associated with Chernobyl-levels of radiation, initiating what is essentially a month-long celebration of Irish culture and, in a much more general sense, the color green.

With a population of over 2 million, the streets of downtown Chicago are an up-close-and-personal exploration of St. Patrick's Day. Traditional Irish music and symbols are everywhere, particularly during parades, and you can enjoy all the late-night drinking you could ever want (at least until 4:00 a.m.). Chicago's skyscrapers even change color to honor the Emerald Isle in an attempt to become the "greenest" city in the world, combining with neighborhood hallmarks like the Irish-American heritage center, the city's south side, and the Chicago northwest. In a city so intense, even if you get tired of the parades and public spectacle, there's always something to enjoy.

And it's probably green.

3. Montserrat, Caribbean

With a total land mass of 39 square miles (and a population of roughly 6000), the tiny pseudo-paradise of Montserrat ranks as one of the most peculiar places people can travel for a St. Patrick's Day celebration. The island itself is nearly 4000 miles from Dublin, but early colonization by the Irish forged a strong cultural presence that persists to this day. The cultural presence was so hearty, much like an Irish dinner, that there's even a town in the south of the island named St. Patrick's.

St. Patrick's Celebration in Montserrat

Unfortunately, a volcano in the island's Soufriere Hills erupted in 1995 and 1997, rendering the island's southern half uninhabitable. The eruptions were so bad that the locals completely abandoned — and later destroyed — their own capital city of Plymouth.

While St. Patrick's Day was definitely popular before the disaster, there is arguably no one on Earth who has more earned a drink than a population that had to bulldoze its own capital. Add that to its nickname, the "Emerald Isle of the Caribbean," and you have a winning recipe for a holiday that celebrates life, laughter, and a day off of work, as Montserrat is also the only location outside of Ireland that observes March 17 as a state holiday. Enjoy the masks, music, travel, and — of course — drinks of an area with the most striking contrast of beauty and destruction you can find outside of a New Years spent in Times Square.

2. Dublin, Ireland

St. Patrick's Celebration in Dublin

Almost nothing can beat the excitement and pure joy of celebrating St. Patrick's Day at the heart of it all. Dublin is the center of the holiday's culture and revelry, including all the parades, music, alcohol, and fun that go along with it. The results are a city-wide party of you and more than half a million of your instant friends, plus all of the visitors who completed their pilgrimage to the homeland. All of the costumes, iconography, happiness, and traditions come together to present a comprehensive experience that no one could forget.

In 2015, Dublin is celebrating the holiday with street theatre, city tours, art exhibits, jewelry expos, comedy festivals, and — naturally — Guinness. Dublin essentially becomes the city that doesn't sleep for March 17, partly because it's the only sovereign country that celebrates St. Patrick's Day as a state holiday. And it's clear to see why — with so much going on, it'd be difficult not to take part in the joy of turning green, commemorating your country's history, and tracking your beers as you run tabs with your coworkers.

Just don't order an Irish car bomb — you don't want to be the person who brings down everybody else's good time.

1. International Space Station, Earth's Orbit

St. Patrick's Celebration at the Space Station

What better way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day than from 249 miles above all of your friends and family?

Probably a lot of things, but stay with me.

Forgetting the borderline-superhuman physical and mental prerequisites to earning admittance to the International Space Station (not to mention the sudden social isolation once you get there), the ISS is truly one of the most unique places you can celebrate the holiday — or anything, really. Previous astronauts have enjoyed themselves with flute performances in zero gravity, dressing in color-appropriate (yet impractical) clothing, and sniping photos of the Emerald Isle while zipping around the globe at 17,136 miles per hour. While it might not have a pub crawl, you'll also never find a bar that will give you a view of the planet that has only been observed by 536 other people throughout all of human history.

How's that for a VIP section?

Despite revolving around the planet at 22 times the speed of sound, you'll still be able to catch glimpses of Ireland and your homeland every time the ISS flings around Earth, roughly sixteen times every day. And while it's doubtful that NASA will let you take a bottle of Bailey's onto the space shuttle, you can still sing songs, snap photographs, or send a convincing letter to the good people at Guinness asking them to fund a resupply.

Unlikely? Maybe. But when have you ever heard of someone turning down an astronaut?

Posted in: Holidays | By Christopher Zook
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