Cooking Demo Success

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Cooking Demo Success

A great way to get a nutrition message across is through food demonstrations. This is also a captivating way to keep your audience's attention and promote yourself as a food and nutrition expert. You can get a sponsor to support the costs of doing the demo, such as a food company or local food retail operation. Opportunities can be created at a farmer's market, senior center, community college, adult educational program or a cooking school. The setting, the audience and the time allotted will determine what kind of a demo you can do. Here are some tips for success:

1) Contact the facility where the demo will be held. Find out what the room set up capacity is and what large equipment (refrigerators and ovens) are available to you.

2) Take inventory of what equipment you have. You may need to modify the preparation of the recipe. Or you can pre-prep the product at different stages of completion to show the audience what it should look like.

3) Determine your information according to the time allotted. I usually allow between 20 minutes for 1 recipe and 1 message or 1-2 techniques and 3 recipes if indoors. If it is outside, highlight one ingredient and use a simple recipe.

4) Create lists. Food and utensil lists should show what you have to purchase versus what you have to bring from your office or home. Prep lists show what you have to prep in advance versus what you have to prepare in front of them.

5) Arrive at least one hour prior to your demo. Make your area look orderly and inviting by having something of interest for them to view before you start. Do a mental preparation of your recipe while checking that you have all needed equipment. Have a place to put used equipment and garbage. Organize your raw and cooked food utensils so you keep them separate.

6) Relate your experiences with your audience so they know you understand their needs. Focus on technique and ingredients, not just the recipe instructions. Pay attention to sanitation. While cooking have some points to cover about nutrition, ingredient substitutes and alternate uses for your recipe. Remove common myths or mistakes about food selection, preparation, cooking and judging doneness of the food.

7) Tasting - the fun part! Portion sizes should be composed of 2 or 3 bites. Decide if they can taste what you prepare at the demo of if you need to have tastings preprepared. You can offer the taste of part of a dish. A good topic to cover is the flavor components of a dish - see the March issue of CFFH.

To prepare for demonstrating recipes, practice cooking them, practice explaining them to others, watch cooking shows and critique them for techniques of delivery. You'll improve with every one.

Patricia Hart, MS, RD. Patricia is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has taught at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.

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