One of the best things about being an innkeeper is all of the new opportunities it has brought to me. Over the past eight years, in addition to learning how to run a B&B, I have learned about marketing (especially over the internet), social media, book publishing and selling and now, how to create and perform a cooking demo for a live presentation. I had no idea when we bought the Carolina Bed & Breakfast in Asheville, NC that it would open up so many new horizons for me.
If you follow this blog then you know that I recently published a cookbook, Our Family Table: Recipes & Lessons from a Life Abroad. Writing, editing and publishing the cookbook is only the first step. After all of that, you have to sell it (online on our website, on Amazon and at selected shops in Asheville!) Luckily our life as innkeepers here in Asheville has brought a number of food bloggers and journalists to our door. In addition, my work with our local association, the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association (the best inns in Asheville!) has also broadened my reach and provided me with many opportunities to network among media, and food and travel writers. Which is how I found myself on the Savor NC Cooking Stage at the Southern Spring Home and Garden Expo this past week!
Some of you may have seen my demo since my daughter, Abby, is extremely gifted at social media and she live-streamed it on the Carolina Bed & Breakfast Facebook page. (Actually you still can view it as Facebook lets you post it as video after the live-stream is over). And while it may look easy, a whole lot of work went into making that happen.
Initially I was told that I would need to fill 45 minutes, which is just an immense amount of time. But later I got a letter from the stage manager there stating that 45 minutes was the absolute maximum time allowed and the 20-30 minutes was preferred. (Whew!).
So first I had to think about what I wanted to present. I tried to think of something people would be drawn to see which might be a little different from the usual cooking stage demo. Since our inn is famous for its evening reception I decided to demonstrate how we get a “party” on the table every night in 40-30 minutes or less. After all people are always interested in a party.
I picked four different hors d’oeurves from my cookbook. I tried to get things that were original, unusual and included common ingredients used in unusual ways. I broke each recipe down into the ingredients needed and wrote that on a note card. Then I looked at the processes involved and decided which I would do onstage and which I would have already chopped, cooked or otherwise prepped. Key to this was not having anything that took too long to prepare or for which there wasn’t really anything I could say about the ingredient or the process. Then I made an initial estimate of how long I thought each dish would take to prepare.
I assembled all of the ingredients on a tray, making a note of what equipment I needed to prepare it. Everything had to be brought with me from our inn in Asheville down to Charlotte so I needed to be careful not to forget anything. And then, in addition to writing this all down, I took a picture of the tray.
Once the tray was all set up with the ingredients and the equipment I shooed everyone out of the kitchen, set a timer for the estimated time, and ran through a demo out loud and in real time. I was pleased to find that by and large I was pretty close on the timing. I did each dish once through then the next week I did them all again.
Finally, the week of the demonstration, I put everything in my car and drove down to Charlotte where I met with my friend and PR guru, Susan Dosier. In her kitchen I set up all of my trays and ran through the whole demo from start to finish without stopping. She had some great suggestions for things I should remember to bring and made some good comments on my delivery.
It actually turned out to be easier to talk and cook than I expected it too. I watch a lot of cooking shows, include The Next Food Network Star (guilty pleasure!) and I tried to think about the tips they give their contestants: bring in a story from your own life experiences, have some tips to share with the audience, explain your ingredients–what are they, where can you get them, and finally relax, smile and have a good time!
Next week I will be performing again and I have a few tweaks to make to make the demo go more smoothly. I have figured out a way to cut down on some of the equipment so I don’t have quite so much to carry and I am changing out one of the dishes because there wasn’t enough to say about the original dish. And because I want to keep it fresh and alive I am already thinking of some new stories and tips so I am not boring myself either!
And there you have it: how I created a cooking demo for a live presentation.
Thank you innkeeping for another new skill!