Advice for an aspiring Emeril.
July 23, 2010 6:52 AM   Subscribe

Hints, suggestions, protips for doing a live, in-person cooking demonstration?

Someone I know is going to be doing a live cooking demonstration soon. Like, in front of a seated audience of complete strangers. The demo is supposed to last around 45 minutes, with time built in for a Q&A. The two things he's making aren't terribly complicated (soup and a quiche), although he's still in the process of tweaking the recipes.

The hosting organization is providing a fully stocked kitchen, lots of super-sleek gadgetry, and even a trained garde manger, if he wants one.

Any suggestions you'd like to throw his way? This will be his first demonstration, but he's good in front of people and can think on his feet, so I'm sure he'll be great. Still, I would love to hear from anyone who's done this before -- what pitfalls to avoid, what kind of stuff he should have prepared ahead, etc.
posted by shiu mai baby to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Last weekend I saw a woman give a demonstration on making jam at the local farmers' market. She had a mike set up on her head and her voice could be heard from some distance. Every single sentence she uttered sounded like a question. Amplified, it was so annoying that I couldn't stay to watch.

So that's my top tip: your friend should do a trial run and have someone evaluate his speaking style.
posted by Dragonness at 7:00 AM on July 23, 2010

Not specific to a cooking demonstration, but one of the first lessons any professor learns when teaching a class- he should be sure to talk to his audience rather than the dish he's making. This sounds obvious, I know, but it's not uncommon to see professors lecture to the blackboard, etc.

Also, small bits of silence are not a problem. If something's taking a bit longer than he expects, he doesn't have to keep muttering, as many people giving demos tend to do.
posted by JMOZ at 7:00 AM on July 23, 2010

Best answer: He should have an iteration of the dish at every step of the process.

So, the veg to be chopped, veg already chopped, veg sauteed, stock measured, herbs prepared. Eggs to crack, eggs beaten, pan already greased, pan to demonstrate greasing.

Because trust me, 45 min seems like plenty of time for soup, but in front of an audience, it's not. Also, if you break a shell into the egg, or whatever, you have not ruined the dish and don't need to use time fishing the shell out.

I think these are called 'step outs' but I'm not sure.
posted by bilabial at 7:36 AM on July 23, 2010

Best answer: Cooking wise, I'd suggest that he have his mise en place set up with everything he needs ahead of time, even if he's going to do some preparation (chopping, peeling, whatever) as part of the demo - just take a few extra pieces of each that can be added to the already prepped ingredients.

Also, double and triple-check the kitchen equipment before starting. I know someone who went to do a baking demo and found out when he arrived that the oven wasn't actually working!
posted by BZArcher at 7:37 AM on July 23, 2010

Best answer: The key to sounding spontaneous is practice.
posted by rhymer at 7:39 AM on July 23, 2010

Best answer: This may go without saying, but make sure the mise en place is completely done before show time. A lot of people may benefit from seeing someone chop an onion properly, but few will sit through it.
Seconding the dry run idea. Your friend might even video tape it and watch it to see how it flows.
Lastly, just have fun. People can tell if your having fun, and it tends to be infectious. I was watching some old Julia Child shows recently, and the hilarious thing is that she screws up left and right all the time. A few days ago, I watched her accidentally fling a board scraper across the room. She just laughed and kept going.
posted by Gilbert at 7:43 AM on July 23, 2010

Have simple stories or tips ready for those minutes you are doing something that requires a bit of time before moving to the next step.

For instance:
Bad: Now you have to knead this dough for 4 minutes.
......4 minutes of silence.........

Good: Now have to knead this dough for 4 minutes. This recipe works great not only out of the oven, but you can serve it up for days to come. You can even freeze it. I remember the first time I tried this, and so on.
posted by haplesschild at 7:51 AM on July 23, 2010

i've read about (and seen) some demos where the cook had a mirror placed placed at an angle above them so that the audience (if they're sitting in front of the station) could look above the cook's head and thereby look straight down at what was going on.

I agree with haplesschild that good stories help, and maybe small "work arounds" like "if you don't have this ingredient, you can substitute this", or "if something screws up at this step, you can fix it by doing this".
posted by alchemist at 7:59 AM on July 23, 2010

Best answer: I've had to do cooking demos for school. Ugh.

Anyway, two important tips: make sure you show the audience that you've washed your hands (and wash them after touching anything like raw meat or whatever), and DON'T TOUCH YOUR HAIR OR FACE.

Also, use oven mitts even if you're pulling something out of a cold oven just for demo purposes. I had something that was pre-cooked and sitting in a cold oven, and when I forgot to put mitts on to get it out, the audience gasped. Whoops!

And having a mirror above the counter angled so the audience can see what's going on is a good thing. However, it also means you have to keep your workstation somewhat organized, for example, by keeping a waste bowl on the counter top to put scraps in as you go along.
posted by Ouisch at 9:56 AM on July 23, 2010

Oh, and he's definitely going to want to practice several times before doing the live thing. I think my partner and I practiced like 4 or 5 times, going through the process of making the whole dish each time. Without that, we would've been utterly lost.
posted by Ouisch at 9:58 AM on July 23, 2010

Best answer: Make sure your friend is checked out on all the equipment, how it works and where it is--not just the "super-sleek gadgetry," although that too if he's going to use it, but the standard stove, salamander, ovens, sinks, steamers, etc. This sounds stupid--it's a stove; it makes things hot, right? Only sometimes stoves have quirks. I've cooked in a ridiculous number of kitchens, both professional and residential (as a professional chef, caterer, for big family shindigs and for medieval recreation), and you would not believe how many permutations of basic kitchen equipment are out there and how frustrating it can be to KNOW fire can be made to come out of that burner, but HOW? "Look, i'm turning the knob; where's the fire? AAAUUUGH! And this has to be ready to serve in TEN MINUTES." Or in your friend's case, everyone will be looking at him and expecting him to perform; they may have some degree of humor for a bit of flailing, but. . .
posted by miss patrish at 2:32 PM on July 23, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks so much, everyone, for the answers. They've been a big help, and now I'm just crossing my fingers that everything goes well. He's doing a practice taping today, so it will be interesting to see how that turns out.

Thanks again!
posted by shiu mai baby at 7:37 AM on July 29, 2010

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