The Food Issue

It's Time To Up Your Dinner Party Game

Enter seven brilliant online classes for the culinary curious.

by Peggy Truong
Originally Published: 
New online cooking classes (some free!) come from chefs like Niki Nakayama, Rick Martinez, Sohla El-...
Food52, Babish Culinary Universe / YouTube; MasterClass; Netflix

Whether you’ve been part of sourdough mania, Ina Garten’s giant cosmopolitan party, or Team Dalgona coffee, cooking at home found many forms when the pandemic began. Even Hollywood got into it: Jake Gyllenhaal found himself in a “relationship” with a sourdough starter; Lana Condor shucked oysters at home; and Amy Schumer and her husband, Chris Fischer, made two seasons of her eponymous Food Network show.

Experts think the increase of cooking at home is a cultural shift that’s likely to stick around. In fact, a January 2021 study by Hunter PR found that 71% of Americans who began cooking more during the pandemic plan to continue once restaurants reopen. Fortunately, cooking classes have never been more accessible if you’re looking for new skills. In the last 15-plus months, chefs and instructors have migrated online to reach the masses. This list — in no particular order — includes multiday online classes, as well as those that call for just a sprinkle of commitment.


If You’re Just Starting Out

Netflix Adam Rose

Samin Nosrat’s pasta guide from NYT Cooking

Look no further than The New York Times’ cooking guides, available on both the NYT Cooking app and website. Whether spotlighting pizza, ice cream, fried chicken, or beans, each page is populated by thoughtful commentary, how-to videos, and easy-to-follow recipes. For example, take the 2017 throwback staple of Samin Nosrat’s guide to pasta-making. She starts with a simple, two-ingredient recipe for fresh pasta dough while subsequently acting as a cheerleader for rookies, who are quickly ready to roll out, cut, shape, and even fill the morsels. (Hello, fresh mushroom ravioli. Goodbye, dry store-bought stuff.) After mastering pasta, try a lesson on homemade bagels from pastry chef extraordinaire Claire Saffitz. And for francophiles, longtime food columnist and author Melissa Clark has a separate collection of guides on the essentials of French cooking.

Cost: $1.25 per week or $40 per year for unlimited digital access to these cooking guides and more than 19,000 recipes


If You Need A Flavor Upgrade

“Sweet Heat” with Rick Martinez on Food52

Twice a month, cook and author Rick Martinez pops up on Food52 with a recipe celebrating his favorite flavor combination: sweet and heat, hence the name of the video series. Shot from his kitchen in Mazatlán, Mexico — where he’s been working on a cookbook for most of the pandemic — he’s featured dishes like coconut shrimp with pineapple habanero salsa, pork ribs in chile verde, buñuelos (fried dough) with spicy hot chocolate, and Mexican bread pudding. Like during his Bon Appétit days, he’s an excellent mentor with a calling for cookies. (His nickname in the Test Kitchen was “Sugar Man,” after all.) Don’t miss the special crossover cookie episode with fellow Food52 resident and fellow former BA-er Sohla El-Waylly, whose own series, “Off Script with Sohla,” focuses on techniques like braising, pound cake building, and salad making.

Cost: free (on Food52’s website and YouTube channel)


If You Miss Grandma’s Food

“Persian Cooking Online 2 with Mab” on League of Kitchens

In the Before Times, cooking classes from League of Kitchens were located in the instructor’s home. The cook, likely an immigrant grandma or aunt figure, would share stories about growing up in another country, while demonstrating techniques like chopping, pickling, or searing in her own New York kitchen. It was cozy. It was noisy. But it felt like home, and the lessons would culminate with sit-down dinners for everyone to enjoy the fruits of their labor. In the last year, classes have moved online to accommodate COVID-19 precautions, but the intimacy continues. Whether it’s making tahdig with Mab (from Iran; lives in Sunset Park, Brooklyn) or vegetarian borscht with Larisa (from Russia; lives in Jackson Heights, Queens), instructors host monthly gastronomic seminars for around 12 students, who are given an ingredients list in advance. The hardest part of this experience might be choosing an instructor, whose national cuisines currently spotlight countries such as Afghanistan, Lebanon, Japan, and Mexico.

Cost: $60 per class, per device


If You’ve Been Eyeing A MasterClass Membership

Courtesy of MasterClass

Niki Nakayama’s MasterClass on Modern Japanese Cooking

In March, the MasterClass roster of culinary giants — like Gordon Ramsay, Alice Waters, and Gabriela Cámara — added a new member in chef Niki Nakayama. Best known for her Michelin-starred n/naka in Los Angeles, she teaches her version of kaiseki, a multi-course Japanese cuisine. Accompanied by her wife and sous chef, Carole Iida, her MasterClass covers everything from Japanese pantry essentials to how to gut and slice your own rockfish. You’ll also learn how to prepare rice, tuna sashimi, and tempura. An annual MasterClass membership gives you access to more than 100 instructors across nine fields, with an average of 20 lessons per MasterClass at roughly 10 minutes per lesson. (Nakayama’s runtimes are slightly longer.)

Cost: $15 per month (billed annually)


If You Bookmark Recipes For Later

Ernesto Ruscio/Bravo

Padma Lakshmi’s IGTV

When she’s not hosting Bravo’s Top Chef, Padma Lakshmi can often be found whipping up a meal in her New York City kitchen, according to her ever-increasing library of IGTV cooking clips. The lightly edited videos are usually less than 10 minutes, accompanied by an upbeat song, and often feature recipes from her three cookbooks. And, in true supermodel style, she’ll absolutely wear workout clothes to make beans poriya, or a cocktail dress for kootu, a South Indian stew she grew up eating. Her one rule? No substitutions when it comes to butter. Last month, her recipe for linguine with tomato and shrimp called for “two f*cking pats” of the churned stuff.

Cost: free


If You’ve Always Wanted To Host A Dumpling Party

Boston Globe/Boston Globe/Getty Images

Virtual dumpling classes from Mei Mei Boston

Like many restaurants affected by the pandemic, Boston’s Chinese-American eatery Mei Mei has adapted to survive. In addition to making their menu items reheatable for home, the farm-focused establishment, which started as a food truck nearly 10 years ago by Irene Li and her siblings, has also moved their popular cooking classes online. (In fact, Li, a six-time James Beard Award nominee, plans to transform the restaurant into a full-fledged dumpling business with nationwide delivery.) By the end of your 90-minute dumpling class, you’ll be able to fold these nuggets of joy at least five different ways, pan-sear them to crispiness, and store them for the future. The restaurant also hosts online classes on hand-pulled noodle making, wok and knife skills, and a vegan-friendly crash course on tofu.

Cost: $33 per class


If Baking Is More Your Thing

Bread: Principles & Practice from King Arthur Baking

No, it’s not too late to start your bread-making journey, and the folks at King Arthur Baking Company are here to help. The 231-year-old Vermont company has a comprehensive schedule of baking classes, most of which have moved to Zoom, like the four-day “Bread: Principles & Practice” course, offered monthly during the workweek. Each day’s live lesson lasts roughly four hours, which is fair, considering the slow-and-steady nature of gluten. You’ll acquire skills to make everything from whole grain bread to French bâtards — and receive a class recording for future practice. Other multi-day courses include “Sourdough Baking Basics,” “Artisan Baking at Home” (croissants!), and “Baguettes,” and single-day options (i.e., one-time) spotlight chocolate cream pie, Japanese milk bread, and samosas.

Cost: $325 for the four-day bread intensive (one-time classes start at $45)

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