When the pandemic first began, restaurant closures and lockdowns left Americans with one choice: survive on takeout or learn to cook at home. Since then, millions of people have put their kitchens to good use and become home chefs in their own right. In the midst of confusion and chaos, they found comfort in chopping, mixing, sauteing and baking at home.
Maybe you’re one of these passionate cooks who found solace in their kitchen. If so, you might be looking to branch out, try more challenging recipes and improve your abilities as a chef. Luckily, there are plenty of things to try this fall to help you do just that.
1. Take a Cooking Class
Even the best chefs in the world take cooking classes to brush up on their skills and experiment with different flavor combinations. After all, there’s something new to learn every day, and you certainly don’t know everything yet. So choke down a slice of humble pie and become the student for a day.
Attend an in-person or online cooking class to expand your knowledge and your skill set. Kitchn Cooking School offers free online courses and instructional videos while Udemy provides affordable food-related classes taught by instructors around the country. Masterclass, BBC Food and even The New York Times offer online culinary education, too, so don’t hesitate to explore your options and choose the best class for you.
2. Participate in a Bake Sale
Fall is for pumpkin pie, muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls and other sweet treats, and people will pay an arm and a leg to have the tastiest ones. Love baking just as much as cooking? Earn some extra spending money and show off your skills by participating in a bake sale or two.
Host your own or find an arts and crafts sale to showcase your prettiest — and most delicious — baked goods. Provide samples so you can receive live feedback from patrons. Take notes so you can adjust the recipe accordingly or play with substitutions next time. Even just a few reviews and comments can be enough to help you grow your skills and refine your craft.
3. Open Your Own Restaurant
If you’ve been cooking for a long time, have received lots of positive feedback and feel confident in your abilities as a chef, consider opening your own restaurant. Yes, it’s a huge step, one that requires a fair amount of faith and energy, not to mention finances. However, if you can swing it, the endeavor may be well worth the effort.
Choose your restaurant style and create a plan to set yourself up for success. If you’re highly detail-oriented, the traditional business plan format might be the best fit for you. Remember to include a cost analysis that factors in licenses, permits, staff, space and appliances so you aren’t hit with expensive surprises along the way.
4. Host Thanksgiving Dinner
This suggestion isn’t for the faint of heart. However, if you’re highly ambitious and feel confident in your cooking capabilities, hosting Thanksgiving dinner is an excellent opportunity to show off your skills. Plus, you’ll get to experience cooking for a whole crowd of people, which is a different beast entirely.
Calm your nerves by planning ahead and sticking to tried-and-true recipes that you know guests will love. Look for dishes you can make hours — if not days — in advance and start early on your non-food prep. Set the table the night before and make a timeline to keep everything on schedule. That way you only have to worry about throwing together last-minute dishes the day-off instead of making the entire meal.
5. Try Canning Garden Vegetables
Fall is the perfect time to reap your summer harvest and sow seeds for your winter or spring garden. But what do you do when you have an overabundance of zucchini or a bumper crop of cucumbers? There’s only so much space in your fridge and they won’t last long as fresh produce. Luckily, you can prolong vegetables’ shelf life by canning them.
This preservation method isn’t too difficult to achieve once you understand the step-by-step process. Plus, it’ll improve whatever dishes come out of your kitchen because canning allows you to control the quality and ripeness of your veggies. All you need is some basic canning equipment and a tested canning recipe to get started.
Finding Opportunities to Grow
You can have all the passion in the world and still be a terrible cook. That’s why you must seek out opportunities to improve your skills and commit to your craft. Experiment with new recipes, take a few lessons from seasoned chefs and dedicate yourself to a continual process of learning and growing. The more you practice, the better you’ll be, and the stronger your passions will become.