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.
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.
2. Measuring is boring – do it ahead of time.
- 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.
3. Have your ingredients “mise en place” and laid out in the order that you will use them.
- 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.
4. Involve the audience.
- “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.
5. If using a stovetop, get your equipment heating ahead of time.
- 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?”
6. Be ultra-prepared for food demonstrations offered outside of a kitchen.
- 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.
7. Think about how you will style your demonstration area or “set.”
- 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.
8. Prepare a “hero” or a finished sample of what you are demonstrating, ahead of time.
- 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.
9. Arrive early!
- 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.
10. Make clean up easy.
- 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.
- 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!
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
(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
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