3 Frustrating Things That Happened In An After-School Cooking Class (and what I did to fix them)

I’m a little nervous sharing with you what happened this past week.

Each of the three problems I experienced could have been prevented by double checking a key bit of information.

Everyone likes to share the glories.

But who shares the realities, when things don’t go your way?

What can you learn from a cooking class where the chef teacher messes up?

Read on and find out.

But First

Before we dive into all that happened, the lesson here is this:  The food came out great and the kids had a fantastic time.

A good teacher knows how to improvise and no matter what is going on behind the scenes, the lesson ends on a high.

I’ve been doing this for over 8 years, with 1,000s of hours in the classroom.  No matter what happens, I can roll with the punches and make it look easy.

I share these failures in order to:

  • Encourage you to move past the idea that a cooking experience has to be “perfect” because, more often than not, it won’t go 100% your way.
  • Show how the key part is how you react to the inconsistencies that most likely will happen

Problem 1:  I forgot an important ingredient

Answer:  Work around it, and be sure to doublecheck all supplies in the future.

The Scenario:  It was Thursday morning on a sunny day in Playa Del Rey on my way to a cooking class.

I knew the kids would have a great time because after weeks of making dishes with broccoli and kale, this recipe would be PURE fun because it’s a dessert:  Chocolate Pancakes with Whipped Cream

The kids how NO idea what was coming.  As I walked them from the pickup area to the classroom , a science room converted into a makeshift kitchen, I told them what was on the menu and they flipped out.

Excited to eat something sweet and satisfying, they quickly washed their hands.

For once, I knew they would listen well throughout the class, knowing I might restrict their second serving if they misbehaved.

As I went through the ingredients, I realized something key:  We were missing baking powder AND eggs.

In a flash, my mind wandered out of the classroom, through the street, to my car, popped open the trunk and saw both ingredients just sitting there.

“Oh no!”  I thought.  I took a deep breath, smiled and kept moving forward.

I knew the recipe would still work, although the pancakes might not rise as much as desired.  Still, they’d be plenty tasty thanks to the sugar, flour, milk, vanilla, chocolate chips, whipped cream and chocolate sauce.

We went through the recipe and the pancakes came out a little flat, but guess what?  They still tasted great.

One, smart kid even asked “Don’t we use eggs?”  And my response, was a quick “Yes, you could.”

When the kids left, they were glowing with excitement (or maybe that was from the sugar coursing through their little bodies).

They had a great time and as I waved them all goodbye, I took a deep breathe and made a mental note:

Lesson:  Always, always DOUBLECHECK your supplies…but if in a worst case scenario where you’re missing something, move forward and make the best of it with a SMILE.

Problem 2:  I was late

Answer:  Double check the class time, duh.

The Scenario:   I was driving to a class in Pacific Palisades on a beautiful, sunny day.  If you’ve driven up the 1 Highway, you know it has a spectacular view of the beach to your left.  It makes you want to park and jump in the water…even though you’re on your way to work.

The class was from 3:30pm-4:30pm and I was on schedule as it was 2:50pm and I was planning to arrive at 3:00pm with plenty of time to unload, prep my ingredients and teach.

At 2:50pm the phone rang, from the office:

“Hey Eric, the school called and wanted to know where you are.”

“I’m on my way”

“They said class started at 2:30pm.”

“What!?”

“Yea, I checked the times on Evernote.”

“I did too, and wrote down 3:30pm-4:30pm.”

“On the note, it listed that time up top, but then below it said the time had changed for this Fall to 2:30pm-3:30pm”

“Oh man.”

“Fortunately, the teacher Jessica who was assisting the class for training was there on time and is watching the kids as they play.”

“Thank goodness.  I’ll still make the class and will call the client now.”

I hung up the phone and put my foot on the accelerate.  I’ve been working with this client for 7 years.  They know me well and I am NEVER late like this.

Very rarely, I’ll be late due to traffic or not leaving the office early enough, but then I would call the client and give them a headsup, i.e. “It’s my fault I’m running late and will be there at 3:20pm, with class starting at 3:15pm, please watch the kids for an extra 5 minutes.”

The school appreciates that I give them a headsup, and at least they know I’m on my way.

But this type of situation where I’ll be over 30+minutes late has NEVER happened.

I called the school and let them know I would STILL make sure the kids make that day’s recipe:  Sautéed Kale Bruschetta 

Sauteed Kale Bruschetta

I quickly parked and dashed into the classroom.  The kids were sitting down at 3:15pm sharp and we hustled.  We washed the kale, dried it and ripped it up with our hands into small pieces.

We cooked it in olive oil with chopped garlic.  To make the bruschetta, I toasted the baguette slices in olive oil and taught the kids to rub each slice with garlic and top them with goat cheese and kale.

At 3:31pm.  We had made the meal!  The kids walked out with a smile on their faces and delicious bruschetta bites for their parents to try.

Again, once everyone was gone, I took a deep breath.  I and was actually quite pleased with myself forgetting everything done more or less on time

Lesson:  Double and triple check the class time!

Problem 3:  I cut myself during class 

Answer:  Watch out for graters!

Remember that chocolate pancakes class?

Halfway through the class I reached into my crate of supplies to pick up a bowl.  Near the bowl was a metal grater.  You know how a grater has different size grating holes on each side?  The smallest size grater is bulbous and has sharp edges that stick out.  I NEVER use them and find them dangerous AND completely useless.

Well, this side of the grater nicked my index finger, I saw a little bit of blood.

I was surprised…I DIDN’T use a knife the whole recipe and somehow I had cut myself!?

I washed my finger and had an Assistant Chef in Training go ask the front desk for a bandaid.  2 Minutes later I had a bandaid on my finger, explained what happened to the kids and moved forward.

Again, ALWAYS be careful with a grater.  (We don’t let kids use it, precisely for this reason)

The pancakes came out well, and my finger has healed.

Solution:  Keep a grater wrapped in a towel, so it has no edges that could cut you.  Also, always have a few bandaids handy, just in case.

And The Big Takeaway

“No matter what, the show must go on!”

That’s a phrase taken from the theater, and, in a way, a cooking class is also a type of performance.

You’re entertaining and educating a group of children, while guiding them through a recipe from start to finish.

If there’s any takeaway, just know a few things

  • Despite me having done this for many, many years, every now and then annoying, unexpected things happen.
  • Doublecheck your supplies
  • Keep a few bandaids handy
  • Smile, even when something doesn’t go your way.

Now that I think about it, that last lesson is important in and outside the kitchen.

So keep up the smiling, cooking and serving good food to good people

And if you haven’t’ joined our cooking class this Fall, go here   (We pro-rate)

Read More: Youtube Video: Easy and Inexpensive Cauliflower Rice with Veggies

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