As a chef, it used to be difficult for me to understand how people didn’t know how to cook.
Having this “chef gene” gave me a world of freedom in the kitchen.
I completely get people who don’t choose the dream of being a professional chef, but still manage to rock in the kitchen. Many of my friends and most of my family members are in this category, but the people I don’t get are the ones that are afraid of skillets, chicken stock and cuts of meat.
They rely on their crock pots (which is a good tool to have) and when they are in my culinary classroom reading a recipe that says “stir for 2 minutes,” they literally stir with one hand and look at their watch with the other.
This is when I politely take the recipe from them, ball it up and throw it across the room.
Teaching is about bonding with other people, not about a piece of paper.
In my 15+ years of teaching people how to create good food, I’ve found 2 types of students-
- The student who inherently has the know how
- The student who is intimidated by cooking and relys solely on a recipe
Both are wonderful to teach and completely different, but here’s the best part: we all learn from each other. One of my most popular cooking classes is called, “Pacific Rim.” I have one student who attends every single class. She is of asain descent. She knows her stuff because of her heritage. Sometimes when I would teach (which is always a hands on, open and social class), she would challenge me in front of everyone. I would laugh so hard because she was right. I was teaching something I’d learned, but I didn’t have her “roots.”
I always invited her to tell the others her method, or her story, and as a result, we learned from someone who grew up doing the methods and style of cooking I was teaching.
It’s a beautiful thing.
Just because one “teaches,” it doesn’t mean that person claims to know everything. A great teacher is always open to learning. Teaching cooking is heartfelt for me because I get to connect with other people who have different backgrounds who always teach me something new.
I would have to say the most memorable student I have to this day is, Genie Evers. One day, one of my best customers in New Orleans asked me if I would teach a friend of hers how to cook New Orleans cuisine. I said, “Sure!” She proceeded to tell me that her friend would be traveling to town on a certain date and we would then meet and set everything up.
We started the classes meshed in trial and error. I had the recipes, but she was a great cook to begin with, so she didn’t want to follow a recipe. In the trash they went.
We experimented with remoulaude, gumbo, etouffee and our tasting spoons were our fingers. We developed a strong bond and in the evenings when I was closing, she and her husband would show up with cocktails. We’d sit, drink, talk, and laugh.
She is the person who called me in June 2006 because she was desperately trying to find out if I was alive after Hurricane Katrina. When I answered the phone, she was excited, relieved and emotional. I told her I survived Hurricane Katrina, but wasn’t sure if I was going to survive the aftermath.
I shared with her that I lived without electricity for 4 months, slept on my sofa wrapped in a comforter with a lantern at my feet.
I confided to her that I received rape and death threats from workers in the neighborhood who were watching me come and go from my home. I told her I bought a gun and carried it on my side wherever I went. I told her that if I didn’t leave New Orleans, Louisiana I knew deep down I would die.
An hour later, she called back and said, “Check your email.” There was an email with my itinerary to fly to Sonoma County, California, which is where I stayed with her for 10 days to relax, clear my head and plan my next life.
Genie Evers the student turned out to be the catalyst for my chance at a new life.
To update to on what’s happening with my dream this week, I will be producing 10 instructional cooking videos for a media company who owns some major websites. I will also be teaching online cooking classes and demos with another Internet company. I am excited about both of these opportunities. I will post the names of both companies very soon when we are down to the final stages of completion.
I hope I will be able to meet some of you through my online classes. God only knows the other ways we could help one another and remind each other to never give up on our dreams