My RD Journey

From Undergrad -> Internship -> RD -> Private Practice!


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5 Tips for Running a Cooking Class

Welcome back to MyRDJourney and a hello to all of my new followers! It has been a crazy few weeks with finishing a short-term teaching contract and balancing 30 clients with my practice. To be honest, I was also in a bit of a blog rut. Some of you reading this may have been here before. You feel like there is just nothing left to write about (although there is). Sometimes it just takes one conversation with a fellow RD (or in my case an RD-To-Be) to get those creative juices flowing again. Needless to say, I’ll be back on schedule with my bi-weekly Sunday postings!

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For all of 2016 and most of 2017, I was working with a contract company to do in-person cooking classes. This was a huge learning experience for me since I had only done food demos/samplings and not an hour long class before. I’ve since shifted gears to doing more individual cooking lessons as apart of my home-visit sessions; however, I wanted to share with you some great tips I learned after doing 3-4 classes every month for almost 2 years!

1 – Tailor Your Recipes
Before you even choose your recipe for a class, make sure you know what equipment will be available. If you are not given a full kitchen, think about how many outlets you have and the worktop space. Once you have that squared away, think about the audience you will be working with. Are these experienced adults, beginner cooks, or even children? Knowing your audience will not only help you to choose an appropriate recipe; but will also increase the likelihood of them actually making it once they are home.

2 – Test Your Recipe and Flow
Before the cooking class, test out your recipe and get a sense of the flow and how that relates to how much time you have. By flow I mean, how long did it take you to chop up the vegetables? How long did it take you to cook the soup? One of my biggest mistakes when I first started was not testing a recipe before class. I would think that I didn’t need test it since I made it a hundred times at home; however, making something at home is way different then doing it in a cooking class. It might take you longer to make a 20-minute recipe since you will be explaining every step and maybe having time for questions. Remember to also keep in mind the taste-testing part of the class. I typically allotted about 10-15 minutes for tasting at the end. You don’t want to be rushing your audience out the door with their plates.

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3 – Make Use of Downtime
When planning your flow, think about the downtime too. What will you be doing when the cake is in the oven? Will you have questions? Will you make something else? One of my back-up plans for unexpected downtime was to make fruit-infused water. I would bring a little shaker bottle, some fresh fruit, and fresh herbs. I would make 1-2 combos and have everyone taste to fill any gaps in the class.

4 – Create a Recipe Outline
One of the best things I did for my classes was to create a recipe and time-flow outline. I would include recipe steps, measurements, estimated time, and key talking points. This helped me stay on track during the class since I would often get questions that diverted my attention.

5 – Set-up Your Space
Before every class, I would measure out all of my ingredients into colorful bowls of different sizes and place them on the counter in the approximate order of use in the recipe. It was so much easier to just dump out a bowl versus take the time to measure out everything in front of the audience. If I did everything during the class, I would have much more downtime and would have had to make sure I had double the measuring cups or stopped to wash things in between (which is not an efficient use of time).

When measuring out your ingredients, also think about pre-chopping some. One of my first cooking classes, I made a mango-tomatillo salsa. The recipe turned out great; however, I actually stood there and chopped 10 tomatillos and 3 mangos (talk about awkward silence). In hindsight, I should have chopped about 8 tomatillos and 2 mangos prior to make for a better class flow.

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Often, many of my clients are afraid to try a new recipe or even new ingredient for fear of the unknown (how to make or how it will taste). Running a cooking class can be a great way to show clients how healthy eating can be simple and delicious!

Make sure to check out the PorrazzaNutrition Facebook page since I have a LIVE mini-series going every Friday at 4:00pm EDT with tips on starting your private practice. Post a comment below if you have questions about running a cooking class or have another tip to include!

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My First Month – What Does Success Look Like?

It has been just about a month since I decided to leave my full-time job and grow my private practice. This week has been a bit weird for me since it is the first without my intern (aka it is just me…and my cat…all day long). I forgot how much random chit-chat filled the days! Even just driving with someone else and reviewing the morning’s class was something I really missed.

Since we are almost to the New Year, I didn’t have a lot of appointments scheduled for the week and I was being to feel a business slump. I started thinking, “Why are you doing this” and “What were you thinking leaving your full-time job” I mean no business means no paycheck! Once I stopped letting my emotions get the best of me, I realized that it is completely normal to have a slow down during this time (it happened at my previous job). I also realized that I will be “making up” for this in January and February when I had more appointments.

I have been reading “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss this week and one of the biggest things that struck me was actually in the first couple of pages when Ferriss had been asking someone what they thought of when they heard the word “successful.” Success. That was the key that I had been missing and what I needed to think about to change my thoughts into more positive ones. The goal I always wanted was to be in full-time private practice and I had accomplished that 4-weeks ago. Now, I wasn’t sure what my new “success” looked like. Sure, I wanted to build partnerships and gain clientele; however, I wasn’t envisioning my practice in the next month, year, or decade. While I haven’t quite figured out what my vision is for my practice, I know once I determine that that my efforts will feel like they have more purpose and I am not just spinning my wheels so I don’t fail.

What Else I Have Learned

Get ahead when you have downtime – What did I do the past few weeks with limited number of appointments? I followed up on headaches (like insurance calls), planned out my Facebook posts for my page, and set a schedule for myself. I already know that January/February is going to be a lot busier for me than December was, so I planned some of the menial tasks now to get them out of the way.

Track your expenses – I also took some time this month to review my yearly finances. It really helped me to set practical goals once I determined what I needed to make to break even and then what I actually wanted to make. From that, I figured out how many clients I needed to see per month to reach my financial goals.

Google Docs/Drive is awesome – I have been using this for minutes for committees I am in and it is great! I also started tracking my mileage on a Google Drive spreadsheet instead of writing it on paper. I feel like this helps to streamline a lot for me since I can access it on the go.

Nothing is really a disaster – Last week in my cooking class, the building’s power shut off due to a Septa issue and Peco needing to do an emergency shut off to fix something. So, to paint you a picture of this, I am making a soup for class and I have most of the ingredients prepped so I can just dump everything in the pot to cook in time. I also planned on making veggie chips with my mandoline. Oh, and this is 20 minutes before class is supposed to start. I was told to try and talk through the recipe so people felt like they got something out of the class when they arrived. I am pretty good on my feet; however, I was thinking to myself how am I going to take up 1-hour of time talking and not making anything (with no back-up food). What did I do? I made it fun, because what else is there? I told the class to pretend the onions were sizzling and I had them “smell” the lovely blends. You learn a lot about yourself while doing a “cooking” class in partial darkness (only emergency lights). Fast-foward a bit and the power returns mid-way through the class, I speed up the recipe, and everyone got to eat and enjoy the soup/chips. I got so many compliments on how I handled the class in the dark and I felt awesome. So, that was one for the books.

What I am Still Working On

-Not letting work consume me or stress over thinking that I am not doing “enough.”

-Not over planning so much that I don’t actually do anything but plan.

-Figuring out “office hours” (aka what is my cut-off time for answering calls and emails?)

-Spending some time de-stressing with meditation, playing the piano, or exercising.

Hope everyone has a great New Year! I am excited to see what 2017 has in store 🙂

Check out my previous blogs to see why I made the jump to private practice +  Weeks 1 and 3 🙂