How Apps Are Elevating the Cooking Class Experience
Let tech tools season your cooking skills
Photo courtesy of MEATER
To ensure students have an educational experience when teaching through a virtual platform, you need to create an interactive experience that breaks through the screen.- Mariko Amekodommo, celebrity chef and virtual cooking class instructor
A reliable constant during these uncertain times remains our attachment to comfort food. Whether you’re a glutton for watching “food porn” or an aspiring home cook, over the past 6 months, you’ve undoubtedly been treated to a bounty of food content – thanks to both technology and a collective of stir-crazy chefs.
In fact, according to an article published by Food & Wine, renowned chefs around the world have taken to their smartphones to continue cooking for their audiences. By viewing livestreams on app platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, foodies can now learn anything from perfecting knife skills to pastry techniques – and everything in between. Some well-known chefs and organizations are even curating virtual cooking classes to create a more intimate educational experience.
From Hollywood to Bollywood
Celebrity chef Mariko Amekodommo got her start back in 2009, when her FREE Baking Company – a vegan and gluten-free operation sourcing global ingredients – entered the Hollywood spotlight. “Soon, my creations were featured at red carpet events, and I began producing culinary events for companies including Beats by Dre, Lincoln Motors, and Camp Mars – the vegan, adult summer camp in Malibu from Oscar winner Jared Leto,” says Amekodommo. “During that time, I was hosting healthy cooking shows on PerezHilton.com, as well as culinary segments on Bravo, Univision, and BET.”
As business continued to boom, Amekodommo started taking a few months off per year to travel the world and learn how to cook authentic and local experiences, which she then incorporated into culinary events for her celebrity clients. Eventually, she relocated to Vietnam in 2016, “because it was central to so many different countries and culinary experiences,” followed by her move to Mumbai, India in 2018. “I have been in Bollywood ever since,” she shares.
A Promising Virtual Reality
Although the pandemic has devastated the restaurant industry – which encompasses the investments of many celebrity chefs – Amekodommo was able to find a silver lining from abroad. “I started hosting virtual cooking classes at the beginning of the pandemic. The pandemic actually brought me out of retirement!” she exclaims. (Upon settling in Mumbai, Amekodommo decided to take a break from the celebrity chef game to shift gears to open an international communications agency, which helps lifestyle brands enter new global markets.)
“As soon as the pandemic hit, everyone I knew from Los Angeles started reaching out about recipes to help boost immunity,” she explains. “I then had Indian health brands hire me to host cooking classes and share recipes on their Instagram Lives on how to boost immunity and mitigate work-from-home issues, like brain drain and staring at the screen all day, along with how to wake up without tons of coffee.”
Additionally, Amekodommo has been studying the historical alternative medicine system of Ayurveda and was asked to offer Ayurvedic cooking classes by the Celebrity Ayurveda School in Mumbai. “I realized that regardless of where people are around the world, their main focus is having an experience that promotes their health and overall well-being. From that, I began curating more classes based on demand,” she shares.
Class is Now in Session
Beyond accessibility, one of the main advantages of Amekodommo’s current classes is affordability. Formerly, her in-person, LA-based classes cost up to $200, due to the need to offset expenses. Now, Amekodommo is able to offer more flexibility, with classes ranging from $40 to $80.
As the demand for her classes has grown, Amekodommo now allows online registration via website and social media channels, as well as provides preparation perks. “Being that it’s an educational and interactive experience, beforehand, I create a group chat to get the students excited and engaged and share a customized shopping list to meet any of their dietary guidelines,” Amekodommo says. “We also provide step-by-step instructions for the prep, and if they need help, we do a brief instruction before the actual class so everyone is on the same page.” Currently, Amekodommo says her most popular class is Ayurvedic Cocktail Party: Flavors of South East Asia, where students learn about international food and drink recipes that align with the principles of Ayurveda for overall wellness.
“To ensure students have an educational experience when teaching through a virtual platform, you need to create an interactive experience that breaks through the screen,” offers Amekodommo. Moreover, she says you need to ensure the offering is something that can be easily recreated in daily life, so the students are likelier to revisit in the future. “I’ve had students come to a class and learn a simple cooking technique, like Asian bamboo steaming. They can then actually create a 4-course meal in a single instrument, and tell me it’s now their go-to preparation, due to easy cleanup and the health factor.”
Furthermore, Amekodommo is able to achieve virtual cooking class success thanks to popular apps like Zoom and Skype, and is also a big fan of using Stream Yard when she plans to stream complimentary events on multiple platforms. And, for group classes for students based in Asia, she favors WhatsApp’s video chat feature. “That’s what they are used to, and they don’t like trying new services,” she explains.
Sometimes, though, Amekodommo experiences technical difficulties, in which case, she transitions from Internet connection to data usage. “We’ve been in Monsoon season, so the storms affect it more,” she says. “However, I have a great event producer, Inked Canvas Events, and as the producer, they can jump in and keep students engaged for the moments when I’m temporarily down.”
The Fruits of Her Labor
As a celebrity chef, Amekodommo says the main benefit of using modern technology is so she can connect with students and fans from around the world – simultaneously. “During one of my last classes, there were students from India, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, The Bahamas, and the UK. Not only am I able to connect with so many people, but the students have a fun, interactive experience with others from around the world,” she explains. “Often, they still stay connected with each other on social media – which is exciting for me to see.”
While learning how to master new cooking techniques during class, you can also take advantage of a tech-savvy cooking app called MEATER. “It originally spawned out of necessity,” says Joseph Cruz, president and co-founder of Apption Labs, the makers of MEATER. One night, Cruz and his business partners were indulging in an evening meeting to get their creative juices flowing. After the scotch was poured, the group began grilling steaks using a wired thermometer, with an accompanying app. After experiencing a malfunction – the thermometer’s wire burnt and steaks ruined – the team had a lightbulb idea: the invention of a wireless meat thermometer app.
So, what is MEATER, exactly? It's the first, wireless, smart meat thermometer. And, while the app download is free, new users must purchase a MEATER product – the original MEATER, MEATER Plus, or MEATER Block – to enjoy its functions. Once you make a purchase, Cruz says you will be able to:
• Estimate the cooking time for your meat dish, so you can plan ahead and take care of side dishes, house chores, or simply chill out while the food is cooking.
• Receive notifications when your food is ready to remove from heat. And, the app will let you know just how long to rest the meat for the juiciest results, removing the guesswork from having your meat cooked to your favorite level of doneness.
• Use Cloud connectivity to monitor virtually from anywhere you have Internet access – at the grocery store, in the office, or from the Man Cave or She Shed.
How MEATER Heats Up Cooking Classes
When you’re engaged in a virtual cooking class, you do not have direct access to the expertise of an instructor. “MEATER guides you, so you don’t need a Master Chef standing over you every step of the way,” offers Cruz. “MEATER helps to educate you as a home cook in understanding how temperature and cooking time impacts the flavor and quality of your meat dish.”
When using MEATER, Cruz says you will learn about target temperatures, resting times, and why you should rest your food before cutting into it. “MEATER helps you to cook perfectly – using data, rather than ‘touch-and-feel,’ which can be inaccurate,” he explains. “You can truly improve your grilling, smoking, and barbecuing skills, as well as your oven and stovetop prowess to ensure your meat is not undercooked – or overcooked – anymore.”
Apps Mentioned in ArticleClick on an app to see more details
ZOOM Cloud Meetings
Zoom is a free HD meeting app with video and screen sharing for up to 100 people100M+ Downloads
Skype - free IM & video calls
Talk to friends and family using voice, video, SMS or instant messages.1B+ Downloads
MEATER is the world’s first Wireless Smart Meat Thermometer100K+ Downloads
I initiated my career as a lifestyle and entertainment writer/editor in Miami, Florida in 2006. Since then, I have worked with more than 100 clients, from startup ventures to established companies and new websites to veteran publications. My work has been featured on Zagat, NBC, Prevention, The Points Guy and Thrillist, just to name a few.
In 2013, I accepted the role of Content Team Manager at an internet marketing incubator, where I honed my content marketing skills. I recruited and managed a team of SEO writers and editors, contributed to hundreds of websites and developed different types of media products.
Today, I own and oversee the operations of Block Media Worldwide, my full-service content consultancy. I currently employ and lead a talented and eager team of self-recruited freelance writers who contribute to a variety of projects.
My main beats include food and beverage, wellness and nutrition, festivals and event production, music, travel, cannabis and small
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