Virtually an Expert

Online classes will have you cooking in no time.

Levesque Photography

Mise En Place owner and culinary director Christine Wansleben. 

What does a cooking school do when its students can no longer learn in the hands-on style they’ve come to expect? At Mise en Place, a Richmond-based cooking school, they go virtual.

Mise en Place owner Christine Wansleben was momentarily stymied by last year’s social distancing recommendations, but after toying with a few concepts, she landed on the idea of taking her cooking classes online. Wansleben and other instructors adapted their public and corporate offerings to come up with a structure that made sense for virtual learners.

“Now, not only do I put the recipes on the website, I send them to the guests as well as a grocery list, an equipment list, and an agenda,” says Wansleben. This, the chef says, helps prepare the guests for learning once the camera is rolling. Wansleben and guests then make each recipe together. 

Many of Mise en Place’s students are corporate clients who are looking for a cost-effective team-building opportunity. Wansleben says online classes also work well for families who want to share the experience of cooking together despite a geographical distance. In this way, going virtual has increased the reach of Mise en Place, something that Wansleben is grateful for.

The few hiccups they’ve had—a guest who was missing an ingredient or equipment that malfunctioned—have provided opportunities to get creative with other pantry ingredients, and that, Wansleben says, was the point all along. Classes run a bit shorter than they would in person, Wansleben notes, because, once guests finish cooking, she encourages them to go enjoy their creations, rather than lingering for discussion as they would have on-site. 

In an effort to connect with and support other local businesses, Mise en Place has been collaborating with a few of their local industry friends, like Belmont Butchery, Blue Bee Cider, Truckle Cheesemongers, and Virago Spirits, whose head distiller popped into a class to provide a quick cocktail tutorial.

Mise en Place is in good company. Here are a few other nearby cooking schools with online classes:

Culinaria Cooking School

Keya & Co.

Now You’re Cooking Culinary Studio

Tiny Chefs (for children and teens!)

This article originally appeared in the February 2021 issue.

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