With many students off campus due to COVID-19, college dining teams have been hosting online cooking demos to engage with diners. Cooking in front of a camera, however, is different than preparing a meal in the back of house. Here are some tips from C&U operators on how to successfully record an online demo.
1. Stick to simple recipes
When deciding which dishes to make, some schools have leaned on recipes with simple ingredients that most people would have in their pantry. “Not only does that make it easy for our audience to cook along at home, it also shows that simple, whole ingredients lead to really great cuisine, which is something we practice every day when preparing our menus,” says Jay Vetter, executive chef for Harvest Table Culinary Group at Elon University.
Operators are also paying attention to ingredient costs. At Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in Bowling Green, Ohio, the dining team, which is managed by Chartwells Higher Ed, hosted a demo that taught students how to make a healthy meal for under $7.
2. Work with outside groups
The BGSU team has also begun working with outside groups to come up with fun demo ideas. This summer, it’s looking at doing a demo for alumni that features alcohol pairings and is also planning to conduct demos with a local Girl Scout troop and for residents of a nearby senior-living center.
4. Prepare for audience questions
Doing a demo live, however, means that chefs need to be ready for whatever the audience may ask, says Shrivastav, who recommends that chefs become well-versed with each of the ingredients in the dish that they’re making. “Make sure that you prepare for the tough questions,” he says. “Like one question I got was about basil. [Students] were asking why you put the whole basil right in [the dish]: Isn’t it tough to eat?"
5. Have a concrete plan
To keep things running smoothly while filming, chefs should take the time beforehand to write an outline that includes each of the steps needed to make whatever dish you’re demoing, Shrivastav says. “I outlined my whole process almost like a theater script,” he says. “This is what I'll do first and what I'll do second. I took my notebook, and I sat in the kitchen and visualized.”