You’ve likely heard of online business and coding programs. Apps that teach foreign languages. Video-based courses in nearly every subject.
But what about cooking? Surely something as hands-on as the culinary arts can’t be taught online… right?
Truthfully, not only is it possible to take cooking classes online, but it can be a wildly effective way to learn the craft! From the cooking basics to more advanced techniques, modern technology has made it possible to learn from the best professional chefs—right in your own home kitchen.
The Truth About Online Cooking Classes
Online education is here to stay. Even pre-pandemic, over a third of all college students took at least one online course.1 And according to Best Colleges’ 2021 Online Education Trends Report, 95% of students say that they’d recommend online learning to others.2
Even with that level of overwhelming support, some are still skeptical of taking cooking classes online. After all, how can a chef instructor assess your work if they can’t taste or smell it?
It’s a reasonable question. But the truth is that a chef instructor with 20, or even more, on-campus students probably won’t be testing every dish from every student. It’s just too much food! Expert chefs, like the ones on Escoffier’s faculty, can tell much more by sight than the average person. Chef Instructor Jesper Jonsson says, “If I see a chicken breast, I can tell you if it’s dry inside.”*
Chefs must hone their senses of sight, sound, and smell just as much as that of taste. Why? Because a professional chef doesn’t always have the opportunity to taste the food they make. They may be able to dip a spoon in a sauce or a soup to test the seasoning. But they can’t cut into a steak to check for that perfect medium-rare.
Online Chef Instructors can help students to assess their work in a different way. They may say, “It doesn’t look like there’s enough sear on that steak,” or “What temperature did you cook that chicken to? It looks dry.” Chef Instructor Jesper believes that this new approach to education creates students who are better at verbalizing what they’re doing and describing flavors. It teaches them to self-assess, rather than relying solely on outside opinion.
How Do Virtual Cooking Classes Work?
Escoffier was the first U.S. accredited institution** to offer 100% online degrees with culinary classes and hands-on industry externships. We’ve been perfecting our courses and curriculums for over 10 years, making us industry leaders in online cooking instruction.
“Since much of baking is really chemistry, our chef instructors look at the finished product’s texture, structure, and, especially the crumb, to make sure the ingredients were measured correctly and the products baked at the ideal temperatures and time. While flavor is important, it’s the most subjective part of baking. And ultimately, if the ‘chemistry’ of the baked product is off, so will be the flavor.”*
Chef Anne Lanute, Escoffier Online Executive Chef Instructor, Baking & Pastry Arts
Virtual classes at Escoffier are interactive and detailed. The curriculum for online students is just as thorough as that of on-campus students. It includes coursework in knife skills, different cooking methods, menu design, inventory management, and so much more.
Students start each week with assigned background reading. Then, they’ll receive step-by-step coaching from expert chefs in live video sessions. They practice those skills in their weekly assignments, based on a production sheet from the instructor.
As they work, students will take photos and include a written summary, using the Flavor Wheel tool to assess their completed dishes. The chef instructor will then review the summary and photos, and provide personalized video feedback and guidance for improvement.
This format provides a comprehensive culinary education that spans cooking techniques and business tools, simple concepts and advanced skills. And it comes without a daily commute or the need to spend so much time on a school campus.
“We have developed an online platform that leverages video, live instruction, as well personalized individual video feedback. Not only do students have a lot of interaction with their fellow classmates, but they also have individual attention from instructors, which helps ensure learning, success, and engagement.”*
Tracy Lorenz, President And CEO Of Triumph Higher Education Group & Auguste Escoffier School Of Culinary Arts
Online Cooking Classes Offer Unparalleled Flexibility
Our modern world is busier than ever. Aspiring chefs could be working two jobs, or balancing child care with their work. Fewer and fewer people have the option to take months or years away from their lives to dedicate themselves 100% to their culinary education.
Online cooking classes can give students the chance to learn on their own schedule, as long as they meet program deadlines. Add your ingredients to your shopping list and head to the grocery store any time that’s convenient. Watch your cooking lesson late at night, after the kids have gone to bed. Practice baking bread on the weekend when you’re off work.
Talented chefs can come from anywhere. Online cooking courses and programs democratize education and open up this career path to a new crew of eager future culinary professionals.
“A major benefit of studying at Escoffier is the program flexibility. Working students find time to complete their coursework around their schedule. Escoffier has invested in technology to keep students in contact with their instructors. Help is just a text message or phone call away.”*
Chef Maria Davenport, Escoffier Chef Instructor
Where You Take Your Online Cooking Classes Matters
So, if you’re going to get an online education, why enroll in a formal culinary school when you can just use free resources instead? While free digital culinary tools are abundant, they have significant drawbacks that may hinder your progress and your career.
The “University” of YouTube
Free resources can be incredibly valuable if you’re interested in learning something specific. For example, if a recipe asks you to spatchcock a chicken, a YouTube video can walk you through how to do it. (Our own Baking & Pastry Arts Chef Instructor Steve Konopelski has a wonderful cooking show on YouTube!)
But as for a comprehensive culinary education, this type of piecemeal approach will not be effective. A culinary curriculum is carefully designed by professional chefs and educators to scaffold knowledge week after week, starting with basic cooking skills and moving on to more advanced techniques. Without it, there could be large gaps in your proficiency that will likely start to show during your first job.
Plus, few people have the self-discipline to commit to showing up day after day if there’s no one holding them accountable. Can you trust yourself to spend one to two years seeking out and practicing techniques on your own?
“Our online students are required to work more autonomously and independently than they would be in a traditional ground campus setting. This encourages discipline, independence, and helps them understand the importance of time management and creating a production schedule.”*
Chef Tyson Holzheimer, Escoffier Online Executive Chef Instructor, Culinary Arts
Massive Open Online Courses
Sites like Coursera and edX offer Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to share free or low-cost education with anyone who wants to learn.
While these programs have structure and planning, they can enroll tens of thousands of students at once. You don’t have the opportunity to ask the instructor questions, and you’ll receive no personal feedback. Plus, the certificates that these courses provide hold little weight with professional chefs. A degree or diploma from a reputable online culinary school can be much more useful in the food industry.
Even if you’re not interested in a degree or diploma, you can still learn specific cooking techniques with Escoffier’s wide library of online cooking classes for home chefs. These classes are taught by professional chefs and the platform gives you the ability to ask an Escoffier chef a specific question about a technique or ingredient when you need to.
“It’s always so exciting to see what students have accomplished through this program and what they have chosen to try. They proudly share their final results, often with personal notes on what they loved or how they might adjust it on the next attempt! I love being able to answer specific questions through instructor discussions, as well as provide encouraging support and virtual high-fives for those who are excited about learning something new in their kitchen!”*
Chef Rachel Wilson, Escoffier Chef Mentor
Virtual Cooking Classes Are the New Frontier
A busy schedule and long distance from culinary school are no longer the barriers to entry they once were. Escoffier’s online programs are empowering aspiring cooks and chefs to pursue their dreams and create the lives they’ve always wanted.*
Get in touch with our Admissions Department to learn more about exciting online programs in culinary arts, baking and pastry, plant-based culinary arts, and holistic nutrition. A cooking career is closer than you think!
To learn more about online cooking classes, try these articles next:
- The Advantages of Online Learning: Why Online Education is Here to Stay
- A Day in the Life of an Online Culinary Student
- Are Online Degrees Cheaper Than Traditional Degrees?
*Information may not reflect every student’s experience. Results and outcomes may be based on several factors, such as geographical region or previous experience.
**Our Boulder, CO campus is the only accredited institution in the United States to offer both fully online diploma and degree programs with culinary classes and hands-on industry externships. We are accredited by ACCET – A Partnership for Quality®. ACCET is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency.