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10 tested tips for giving exceptional food demonstrations

Kristyn Hall, a food, nutrition and culinary coach, shares her insight on conducting food demonstrations and discusses why you should be doing them.


KHHS.jpgKristyn Hall is a consulting registered dietitian and food, nutrition & culinary coach based out of Calgary AB. Kristyn leads culinary nutrition cooking classes and food demonstrations for the public and professionals, and provides individual coaching. She enjoys helping people discover the pleasure of eating great-tasting food that nourishes their health and wellness. Kristyn has worked with diverse media, including CTV news, City TV, Global Calgary, various newspapers and radio stations. She also writes for the Alberta Milk Easy, Tasty, Healthy Blog. You can connect with her through Facebook, Twitter, follow her blog, or take one of her classes. 
 

  

While I can talk for hours about food, nutrition, and the importance of eating less processed foods, I have found that the best way to people’s minds is through their stomachs. When I include a food demonstration as part of my nutrition education presentations, people are inspired to go home to make the nutrient-rich food I just showed them how to prepare.  Food demonstrations increase the impact of my presentations. Getting people cooking and preparing nutrient-rich foods encourages them to eat more of these foods!
 
I have given food demonstrations on a variety of topics, such as gluten-free cooking, vegetarian cooking, heart healthy cooking, and cooking for brain health. When planning a food demonstration, I consider my objectives. What do I want participants to get out of my presentation? With that in mind, I determine what dish I want to prepare, while also considering the venue in which I am giving the food demonstration.  From here, I can weave in evidence-based nutrition recommendations. This is where dietitians can absolutely shine in food demonstrations.

Kristyn_Food_Demo.jpeg
 
As dietitians, we are food and nutrition experts, uniquely trained in nutritional sciences and critical thinking. Dietitians can offer something really unique in a food demonstration.
 
During food demonstrations, dietitians can:
  • Help shape people’s thinking with our thought leadership and practice-based perspectives. 
  • Answer people’s questions about timely topics and yesterday’s food and nutrition headlines.
  • Guide people through the complex web of nutrition information.
  • Inspire people to eat nourishing foods.
  • Weave in evidence-based nutrition messages.

There is a lot going on during a food demonstration. You are managing your presentation, your food preparation, your audience, your key teaching points, and your time.  It is essential to make things simpler for yourself in every way possible. Below are ten tips to get you well on your way to providing food demonstrations with ease.
 
10 tested tips for giving exceptional food demonstrations:

1. Practice preparing.
 
  • After you have selected your food demonstration recipe, practice preparing it while you are talking. Doing this will help with the flow of your presentation.  I have also identified additional food, nutrition, and culinary teaching points during my practice session.
  • There are often natural lulls when preparing a recipe, for example when browning meat. By practicing, you will identify where these lulls are. Then, you can practice filling the silence.

2. Measuring is boring – do it ahead of time.
 
  • Measuring everything out will get boring and slow you down. Decide what foods you will have measured out and prepared ahead of time versus what you will show your audience. Recently, I did a food demonstration of a pomegranate salsa where I demonstrated how to seed a pomegranate. As seeding the entire pomegranate would have taken too long, I used arils that I had already seeded ahead of time to continue my demonstration. This really helped with the flow.
  • I have found it helpful to talk to people about measurement itself. While baking requires precise measurement, cooking usually allows more freedom with food quantities. Helping people to become more “free” in the kitchen can help build their confidence to cook and make it more enjoyable.

3. Have your ingredients “mise en place” and laid out in the order that you will use them.
 
  • “Mise en place” means having your ingredients prepared and ready to go before you start cooking. However, there may be ingredients that you want to demonstrate how you prepare – in which case, see tip two.
  • Having this done ahead of time helps to smoothen out the flow of your recipe assembly and allows you to focus on your presentation.

4. Involve the audience.
 
  • As much as possible, invite comments, questions, and participation from your audience. It helps to raise the energy of your food demonstration.
    • For example: In one of my gluten-free tapas classes, we made fruit and nut crackers. After I had finished the bulk of my food demonstration, I invited a participant to come up and finish preparing the cracker recipe, so I could move on to the next demonstration recipe.
  • Ask questions such as:
    • “How else do you like to use flaxseed?”
    • “How do you usually peel a pomegranate?”
    • "What are you hearing about nutrition in the news?”

5. If using a stovetop, get your equipment heating ahead of time.
 
  • If your demonstration requires the use of a frying pan or saucepan (or similar equipment), turn on your heat source and heat up your pan about five minutes before you need it. Heating a pan takes time and slows down your demonstration. Of course, don’t forget to preheat the oven too if needed.  
Kristyn_Blueberry_DemoWM.jpeg

6. Be ultra-prepared for food demonstrations offered outside of a kitchen.  
 
  • For cooking demonstrations on live TV (like this one), you need to think ahead as to what foods you need to bring. Your foods will likely need to be pre-prepared for your demonstration, especially if it is a short segment.
  • You also need to think about how you will transport your food. Individual glass containers work well for this. Glass dishes allow audience members/ viewers to see the foods you are using. After preparing at home, I put my food, equipment, and props for transport to my demonstration in large plastic bins.
  • You also need to think about all of the equipment you will need for your demonstration. For example, knives, cutting board, lemon juicer, glass bowl, frying pan, spoon, cloth for clean up, serving plate and utensils.  This is another reason to practice (see tip one), as it will help you determine your equipment needs.

7. Think about how you will style your demonstration area or “set.”
 
  • In addition to packing my pre-prepared food and equipment needed for a demonstration, I am also thinking about how I will style my demonstration area or  “set.”
  • Add in relevant food props. Think about how you can add in contrasting colours to give energy and vibrancy to your set. Keep in mind the colours of the foods you are demonstrating.
  • Add in colour to your set with garnishes, other foods (e.g. lemons, carrots, apples, kale), and plates, bowls and other equipment (e.g. a coloured spoon or spatula).
  • Add in height variation to your set for visual appeal. Bring in props to display your foods at different heights.  
  • Coordinate what you are wearing to go well with the colours of the foods you are showcasing.
  • Bring extra forks and napkins for TV staff. They love leftovers!
  • Have containers for transporting any extra food.

8. Prepare a “hero” or a finished sample of what you are demonstrating, ahead of time.   
 
  • Using this technique, you can show your audience what the finished product will look like, even if you run out of time. Food-style your “hero” to maximize interest.

Kristyn_Food_Demonstration_SetWM.jpeg

9. Arrive early!
 
  • For food demonstrations on TV, I like to arrive at least one hour ahead of time. For the  classes I offer, I like to arrive 2-3 hours ahead.  This way, you can prepare for your demonstration without time pressure, and have a bit of “wiggle” room to handle the unexpected.

10. Make clean up easy. 
 
  • A wet cloth is essential to wipe up your preparation area, especially in between recipes. Have a compost bowl where you can throw your food scraps.
  • If you are doing a demonstration outside of a kitchen, bring along a garbage bag and large dirty dish bin for simple clean up.
Giving good food demonstrations takes practice, but they are worth the effort. What a great way to showcase dietitians as the experts in food, as well as nutrition!
 
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Editor's note: Dietitians have a unique knowledge of food and the nutrition required to provide Canadian consumers with practical advice on choosing the good-for-you ingredients they need to cook healthy meals. More and more, dietitians, like Kristyn, are embracing teaching cooking skills and food literacy.
 
“Historically dietitians distanced themselves from the preparation of food and aligned themselves with the scientific delivery of information on food and nutrition… The pendulum has swung back to skill-based education and teaching cooking has reappeared on the policy agenda as a legitimate, nutrition-education measure based on perceived food and cooking literacy and its implications for health.” 1,2

Do you want to start doing food demos too? Or, do you have some additional tips for us? Leave comments or questions for Kristyn below!

1. Begley, A., & Gallegos, D. (2010). Should cooking be a dietetic competency. Nutrition & Dietetics, 67(1), 41-46. doi: 10.1111/j.1747-0080.2010.01392.x.

2. Dietitians of Canada. Food Skills Background. (2014. Dec 5). PEN: Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition. Available from: http://www.pennutrition.com/KnowledgePathway.aspx?kpid=22933&trid=22982&trcatid=38. Access only by subscription. (Free trials available. Click Subscribe on log in page.)
 
 
    Brent Martin
    Thanks for the practical and very useful tips. I have recently started doing food demos at my workplace for our staff members and they love the hands on food demos, nutrition education I weave into the class and the interaction I have with my audience.
    These tips will only make things better!
    2016-07-15 9:54:30 AM
    Patricia Chuey
    Great article! Thanks for the excellent tips Kristyn. You deserve a medal for food styling. Your TV segments are always beaming with colour and deliciousness...and that takes a TON of prep work! Keep up the inspiring work! (A new DC award category perhaps??? Food stylist of the year!)
    2016-01-12 12:24:38 PM
    Nicole Spencer
    I agree with the comments above and hope this post helps more dietitians use real food in their practice. Including hands-on content is certainly challenging but the impact can last a lifetime! Thank you for the amazing post Kristyn.
    2016-01-07 5:57:18 PM
    Pat Vanderkooy
    Your blog article mirrors your enthusiasm Kristyn! You make the point that creating a fun and interactive demonstration requires LOTS of advance preparation.

    I think food demonstrations are also good times to talk about food safety and reducing waste.

    Thanks for a great article.
    2016-01-07 3:21:11 PM
    Jayne Thirsk
    Thanks for sharing your expertise. SO nice to have all this practice-based experience in one, totally organized blog post!
    Well done.
    2016-01-07 2:43:52 PM
    Carol Clarke
    Such wonderful detailed information Kristyn. Thanks for sharing your expertise!
    2016-01-07 12:55:44 PM

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