Many of us have become fairly good cooks because we had to learn how to cook for ourselves. I think that my best method of vegan outreach is to share vegan food with others. For years I have arranged quarterly vegan dinners as events of the Vegetarian Society of El Paso and have given a number of cooking classes for our group.
Last year a manager of a local vegan-friendly restaurant asked if I would be interested in giving a cooking class at the restaurant. You don’t have to wait for a vegan-friendly restaurant to contact you. Get in touch with restaurants in your area. There are a number of reasons why partnering with a restaurant is advantageous. The restaurant I work with provides most of the food and two assistants to help me prepare the dinners. They do some of the promotion for the event. They provide the equipment I need and also help serve and clean up. Specialty food items that they don’t have on hand I buy and I am reimbursed.
The first cooking class I gave was attended by 25 people. I called it “Eat To Beat Cancer.” I did a cooking demo and served an Indian themed meal of curried vegetables, Indian spiced quinoa, raita (soy yogurt with cucumber and dill), fruit chutney and chilled hibiscus tea.
As I cooked, I talked about free radicals and antioxidants. I talked about the cancer-fighting properties of the turmeric in curry powder and those of cruciferous vegetables. I spoke of the immune system strengthening abilities of onions and garlic. I gave a lot of pro-vegan information.
A Whole Foods market opened in El Paso last year and I met with the Community Relations person. I now do classes there, as well. Having several venues where I do classes makes it possible to repeat specific classes for different audiences.
Tips fordoing cooking classes:
- Contact health food stores and vegan-friendly restaurants, and partner with your local vegetarian club to find venues to present classes. Even doing classes for a small number of people in someone’s home can be a good option.
- Decide on a topic and design a menu that reflects that topic. Possibilities: “What to Do With Tofu,” “Superfoods,” “Dairy Alternatives,” “Vegan Breakfasts,” “Vegan Desserts,” “Mex-Veg,” “Raw Foods.”
- Decide whether you want to give out samples or prepare whole meals for attendees. I prefer to cook meals for less than twenty people.
- Set a price for the class which could include a fee for your services, a donation for your vegetarian society and/or some funds for the restaurant or store. Some venues will be happy with just the exposure you are providing for them.
- Contact companies that make vegan products. Many will send you free products or discount coupons when you tell them that you will be promoting their products. Whole Foods requires that everything I cook comes from their store. Other venues don’t have that restriction.
- Research the benefits of the food you are preparing and/or the problems with the food you are replacing with plant-based alternatives.
- Write up an outline of what you want to say about the food ingredients you use. Use notes or your laptop, but memorize large portions of you presentation.
- Be prepared for questions about the supposed healthfulness and ethical superiority of grass-fed, organic, “humanely” raised, free-range and other qualifying excuses to eat animal products, and prepare to answer questions like why “Does soy cause cancer?” and “Don’t cows explode if we don’t milk them?” Practice patience. Be cool.
- Practice cooking the food.
- Determine the number of participants for the class based on the size of the venue and the capacity of the cooking equipment and set a limit on participants.
- Do the math to determine serving sizes of food for the number of people you will feed; know how many teaspoons are in a cup, cups in a gallon, etc.
- Make a plan to promote the event.
- Prepare some of the food in advance — as much as you can.
- Think about acquiring cooking tools and equipment: a pressure cooker, induction plate, spiralizer, Nu-Wave oven, Vita-Mix, air fryer, etc.
- Save your research, outlines and recipes in folders on your computer so you can repeat your classes.
- Print recipes to pass out to attendees
- Be personable. Show them that you are just like them. Use humor when you can. If you can’t make them laugh, you can’t make them learn.
It’s fun and easy to do cooking classes and they are a great way to promote veganism. It has become my path as a Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator.
Greg Lawson ~ As vice president of the Vegetarian Society of El Paso , Greg organizes vegan dinners for 80 to 100 people and brings in nationally known speakers including Dr. Michael Greger, Paul Watson, Bruce Friedrich, and Victoria Moran. Every other month he does a vegan cooking class for some 20 people at the local Whole Foods store, at a vegan-friendly restaurant and in people’s homes. And his vegan oriented radio show, ACT Radio: Animal Concerns of Texas, on the local NPR affiliate is in it’s fourteenth year. A May 2014 graduate of Main Street Vegan Academy, Greg is shown here addressing the prestigious National Rights Conference in Washington, DC, in 2015.