In episode 495, Megan chats to Ashley Covelli about how to host successful virtual or in-person cooking classes, including technical setup, engagement strategies, and pricing considerations.
We cover information about how to generate additional income through cooking classes and finer details like creating a welcoming environment, managing class logistics, and striking a balance between preparation and execution.
Write Blog Posts that Rank on Google’s 1st Page
RankIQ is an AI-powered SEO tool built just for bloggers. It tells you what to put inside your post and title, so you can write perfectly optimized content in half the time. RankIQ contains a hand-picked library with the lowest competition, high traffic keywords for every niche.
Bio Ashley Covelli is the food photographer, recipe developer, and culinary instructor behind Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen and the co-founder of Passing the Plate. She loves helping busy people find time to cook delicious meals while reducing the amount of stress, money, and waste involved in the process. She believes in the restorative and joyful practice of sharing meals in the community, preserving the recipes of our ancestors, and cooking as a way of creating memories with loved ones. Ashley’s legitimately tiny kitchen is located in Ossining, New York, where she lives with her husband, son, and a feisty rescue cat. Her professional background is in graphic design and fine art, and she brings that aesthetic to her culinary creations.
- Diversify Revenue Streams: Consider various income sources like sponsored posts, affiliates, and teaching classes to sustain your business.
- Protect Your Energy Levels: Avoid overcommitting to classes or projects to maintain balance and prevent burnout.
- Factor in Prep Work: Acknowledge the extensive preparation involved in virtual classes, including recipe testing, setup, teaching, and cleanup.
- Test Your Gear: Prioritize tech checks and microphone charging to ensure smooth virtual class experiences.
- Encourage Audience Interaction: Create a welcoming environment by inviting questions and feedback during classes.
- Be Prepared for Tech Glitches: Stay calm and adaptable in case of technical issues during live sessions.
- Use Instagram Stories: Use platforms like Instagram Stories to practice and improve comfort with video content.
- Engage Authentically: Embrace imperfection and genuine interactions to connect with your audience effectively.
Click for full script.
EBT495 – Ashley Covelli
Food bloggers. Hi, how are you today? Thank you so much for tuning in to the Eat Blog Talk podcast. This is the place for food bloggers to get information and inspiration to accelerate your blog’s growth and ultimately help you to achieve your freedom. Whether that’s financial, personal, or professional. I’m Megan Porta. I have been a food blogger for 13 years, so I understand how isolating food blogging can be. I’m on a mission to motivate, inspire, and most importantly, let each and every food blogger, including you know that you are heard and supported.
I know many of us are looking for new ways to monetize, but also new ways to engage our people and even find new people to pull into our blogging business in some way. Ashley Covelli from Big Flavors From a Tiny Kitchen talks to us about hosting either in person or virtual cooking classes. I can’t think of a single detail that we left out of this conversation. We talked through so much. Whether you should work on your own or partner with a library or another organization. How to go about doing that. How to get people into your classes, how to engage with them inside of your classes, what to charge for them, what to do if something bad happens, and even how to get comfortable in front of the camera. If you do want to start teaching online and so many other things, you are going to love this episode. It is so good. It is episode number 495, Sponsored by RankIQ.
Hey, awesome food bloggers. Before we dig into this episode, I have a really quick favor to ask you. Go to your favorite podcast player, go to Eat Blog Talk. Scroll down to the bottom where you see the ratings and review section. Leave Eat Blog Talk a five star rating. If you love this podcast and leave a great review. This will only benefit this podcast. It adds value and I so very much appreciate your efforts with this. Thank you so much for doing this. Okay, now onto the episode.
Megan Porta 01:59
Ashley Covelli is the food photographer, recipe developer and culinary instructor behind Big Flavors From a Tiny Kitchen and the co-founder of Passing the Plate. She loves helping busy people find time to cook delicious meals while reducing the amount of stress, money, and waste involved in the process. She believes in the restorative and joyful practice of sharing meals in the community, preserving the recipes of our ancestors, and cooking as a way of creating memories with loved ones. Ashley’s legitimately tiny kitchen is located in Austin, New York, where she lives with her husband, son, and a feisty rescue cat. Her professional background is in graphic design and fine art and she brings that aesthetic to her culinary creations.
Ashley, hi, how are you today?
Ashley Covelli 02:43
Hi Megan. Thanks so much for having me.
Megan Porta 02:47
I am so excited to chat about this. This is something that I think a lot of people are needing with just wanting extra revenue and you know, stability and all of that in their businesses. So I’m super excited. But first, do you have a fun fact to share with us?
Ashley Covelli 02:59
I do. I’m a bit of a nerd. I love games and trivia and puns, so I keep a, like a running list in my phone of trivia team names just in case I need them and it’s just like, I don’t know if I ever need to laugh, I just kinda like peruse through it or if I’m doing trivia with a friend. So like a couple, the one that I use the most often is the Big Kapowski. It’s like a Big Lebowski and Saved by the Bell reference. Oh. A little niche, but I, I noted a few of the food related ones for this crowd. If anybody’s interested in a silly pun. So I have Shirley Temple of the Dog, Cacio E. Peppa Pig, Lasagna Del Ray and Def Boyardee. But it’s spelled like Def Leppard.
Megan Porta 03:38
Oh my gosh.
Ashley Covelli 03:39
Yeah, it’s, the list is ridiculous. It’s very long.
Megan Porta 03:42
That’s hilarious. So do you play, do you do trivia like out and about?
Ashley Covelli 03:47
I love doing trivia. I did it more regularly pre-pandemic times. Now it’s a little harder to wrangle people, but there are lots of local places that are trying to bring trivia back. So I’m always, I’m always down for some trivia.
Megan Porta 03:59
So when I see the really fun unique names up there, I’ll be looking for you, Ashley.
Ashley Covelli 04:04
Yes. I’m everywhere.
Megan Porta 04:05
And then there’s always the boring names, right? Like John, John D, like really couldn’t you think of anything better than that?
Ashley Covelli 04:12
Megan Porta 04:13
Yes. Oh I love that. Okay, you are here to talk about virtual cooking classes and how you got into that and I’m really excited to hear your story with that. Do you want to talk us through your blog real quick first?
Ashley Covelli 04:25
Sure. My blog is Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen and the first question everybody asks is, do you have a tiny kitchen? I do. It’s very small and I started it back in 2006, so I’m like dinosaur age when it comes to food blogging, just kind of as a creative outlet. I had a graphic design job and I wasn’t feeling very creatively fulfilled. So I was like, well we have to eat. I might as well like try to make my food look pretty. So it was a hobby for a long time. And then over the years, you know, I started doing Sponsored work and there’d been a lot of iterations since those days. And then eventually I had somebody at my local library yoga class was like, I know you do stuff with food and you’re so friendly, like, would you ever consider teaching cooking classes? And I was like, absolutely not, I’m not interested. But I came around to it. It was, I started doing some in-person classes with that library and then word kind of got out and you know, they were really happy with me. They knew me because I had gone to different programs at the library with my son when he was younger. So it was just kind of a fun, kind of fun way to get involved with the community. And then once 2020 happened, everything shifted virtual and so that’s kind of when that took over a different, like a different way of operating for everybody.
Megan Porta 05:40
Yeah. Okay. Cool. I love that you were kind of, not pressured by encouraged into that. Like, hey, you’d be really good at this. And you were like, no, absolutely not. But you did it anyway even though it seemed probably scary, right?
Ashley Covelli 05:53
Yeah, I mean I had, like back in high school I taught daycare so I was, was really comfortable working with kids. So I, I started doing a lot of like teen classes at the library and that’s like a whole other level of interacting with people and making sure that people are being safe with the tools and everything. But it was a really like seeing them grow over the years and everything. It was like a cool way to get involved. And I did like a cheeseboard demo for new parents and like cookie decorating party and stuff. So it was a lot of fun.
Megan Porta 06:21
Oh my gosh, I love that. And I’m looking at your about page right now that is like the ultimate charcuterie board. Oh my gosh. It’s like an entire table.
Ashley Covelli 06:31
That was for a friend of mine locally who she was really sick and she wanted to have like a big party while she was still feeling well. And so I don’t normally do that but the problem, like something like that for somebody, I did that whole spread myself oh my gosh. And some past appetizers. I was like immobile for a few days afterward, but like she’s just the sweetest person and it was a lot of fun. It was super impressive. But everyone’s like, oh hey, can I hire you to do this? And I’m like, there is not enough money. I don’t know what I was thinking doing it on my own.
Megan Porta 07:00
Well I’m glad you captured it because it’s very, very impressive you guys, if you’re listening you have to go check this out. So go to bigflavorstinykitchen.com/about. Holy cow. I want to be there right.
Ashley Covelli 07:14
Now. That’s. I just redid my about page recently, like it was very old. Oh. So I’m glad that that was appreciated.
Megan Porta 07:21
Oh my gosh, I love this. Is that one of your specialties doing like cheeseboard party boards?
Ashley Covelli 07:26
Yeah, I love doing them. Whenever I share them online it’s usually like if I’m having people over, because I mean I can take out a whole cheeseboard on my own, but it’s not necessarily like a smart idea frequently. So yeah, I’ve done a few cheeseboard classes in the past too because people are intimidated by it often. But you really can make it work with whatever you have. Like I’ll often use like little bits from my fridge and whatever just yeah. So I do enjoy a good board.
Megan Porta 07:52
Find those olives that aren’t expired and throw them on. And cheese in the back of your drawer. Throw them on. As long as there’s no mold it’s pretty easy.
Ashley Covelli 08:00
Yeah. Those last couple berries that are like you wanted to use them before they go.
Megan Porta 08:04
Absolutely. Yeah. They do look overwhelming and intimidating, but once you start piecing things together, it’s really not that bad. And they’re so delicious. And they’re so fun too.
Ashley Covelli 08:14
Yes. And everybody can get what they want. My son loves it. He’s in middle school and he’s just like, like snacks for dinner. Oh. It’s like he loves it.
Megan Porta 08:21
I have a snacker, too. He, that’s like his dream to have one of those boards in our kitchen at all times. That would be like, oh my gosh, heaven for him.
Ashley Covelli 08:28
I’m with him.
Megan Porta 08:30
Yes, same. I could, like you said, I could take out an entire board myself, but maybe I shouldn’t do that on a frequent basis. Maybe just occasionally. Okay. So your cooking classes that started out in person turned virtual once we hit the pandemic times and everything changed. So how did you like change? Like how did you go about making that shift?
Ashley Covelli 08:53
So for at first I was just trying to, you know, bring people some sort of comfort at home, you know, and togetherness. because We were all so isolated and the main difference I found with doing them virtually versus in somewhere like a library is you have your full kitchen, so you have whatever tools and cookware you need are there. It’s not like when you’re at the library, at least my libraries, it’s like a push cart with a hot plate. Yeah. And like, you know, so you could really do cooking. So I really wanted to look at it like showing people how they can create something and they’re in their own space so they remember the next time they go to make it without me, Hey, I remember Ashley told me to use this and it was over here in my kitchen. And like they can ask questions. So I find that like, that sense of being able to replicate what you make, especially if it’s something new to you, is really great. Because if you’re taking a cooking class at somewhere that doesn’t have a real kitchen or on the other end of things, one of those places that’s got like crazy professional kitchen with like all of the like flames and you know, it’s like, it’s cool but it’s not really like it doesn’t feel the same. Yeah, it’s not realistic. It’s like a fun project, but it’s not like this is something I’m going to be doing for my family on a regular basis. Yeah. So yeah, I had to change, I had always put together like recipe cards that we would print out before my classes. But some of the other things that changed was like I would put together a packet that would tell the people who are attending like, this is the list of equipment that you need. So I’d have to read through my recipes and kind of like cook through them in my head and be like, okay, we need measuring spoons, we need like the stove top, we need foil, you know, different things because I like to give everybody all the information they need up front so that they’re prepared so everyone’s not like scrambling at the last minute. So stuff like that was really important.
Megan Porta 10:44
What else is in your packet? So you have equipment, do you do like full recipes? Any other information?
Ashley Covelli 10:49
Yeah, so my packets are like, the first page will be like a just quick brief intro and if it’s partnered with another organization, I’ll mention that it’s with them and any notes that they have, if there’s any ingredients that might be a little tricky to find, I’ll mention like, you know, this is usually in this aisle or at this type of store, or you can order it online or if there’s a note, anything that’s like noteworthy that might be missed if they were just looking at the recipe. So that first page has that, it has the list of kitchen equipment that you need and then the next page or however many pages it needs to be are the full recipes so that they can have all their ingredients. I would always make a note that like you don’t have to do any of the prep ahead of time. Like we’re going to do the whole thing together. And you know, some people will come like they’ve already got everything diced and whatever, but like I really, you know, I want, I want it to be things that are attainable for people to do in whatever timeframe we have.
Megan Porta 11:43
Okay. I love that you’re so well equipped beforehand so that people come prepared, they know exactly what they’re getting into. They’re not like, oh do I have to prep this? You know, like you’re very clear about it. Yeah, I’m sure that’s a problem.
Ashley Covelli 11:55
I try to be because I feel like it’s just going to set them up for success and just also letting them know that like, it’s okay to ask questions. Like I’ve been, I’ve taken some cooking classes where it’s like very formal and very like this is what you do. But I try to, I try to budget a little time for like, if somebody needs to, you know, is a little slower or if there’s a lot of questions. because I just want to make it like a less intimidating place for people to be. I think there’s plenty of reasons that people are afraid to like get in the kitchen and cook for their families or themselves. And I don’t need there to be another barrier, you know?
Megan Porta 12:29
Oh that’s so great. I love that you do that make people feel comfortable and safe. You’re coming to a safe space and all of that.
Ashley Covelli 12:37
Totally. And like laughing at myself, I feel like the fact that I can do that is a huge benefit because like I’ve certainly chopped things and like stuff has fallen on the floor or whatever and like that’s just real life. And I think that people really relate to that and they’re like, oh, okay, so it’s not Pinterest perfect all the time or it’ll still look good even if I accidentally diced something that I was supposed to slice. You know what I mean? Like yeah. I’ve had people who have never used the broiler before they were afraid to. So I would like take a moment and like walk them through like here’s, you know, here’s what you need to do. And you know, I think having the encouragement of somebody there, not that like if they had some sort of crazy mishap, I wouldn’t be able to like step in and fix it for them. But you know, like helping to guide them through it and keep them calm about things I think is really important.
Megan Porta 13:22
So the fire I started on live video no lie. I’m not kidding you Ashley. This was so like still to this day, one of my most lifetime embarrassing moments.
Ashley Covelli 13:30
Oh my gosh.
Megan Porta 13:31
Made me real and made people like me. And then the, I literally like turned around, opened my oven and the parchment was too close to the broiler I think, and caught on fire. So I closed the oven back up, but like people saw it and then a few seconds later my smoke alarm started going off. So I had to go take care of that. And it was, I literally stepped off camera and I was like, I just want to run away screaming and die. It was so embarrassing. But I know like later people were like, it’s okay, like this, this happens. This sort of thing happens. Maybe not to that extreme all the time, but it does. It makes you real.
Ashley Covelli 14:07
Yeah. And I feel like, so like for my classes I purposely won’t do anything that involves like certain cooking techniques because I know that it’s possible that I’ll have to vent So loudly fires that I can’t hear. Yeah. Not necessarily fires, but like, like I’ll air fry things briefly, but if there’s like, I have some recipes, like I have a chicken wing recipe that I do in the air fryer, but like I know it gets real smoky and we don’t have a great ventilation option in my kitchen. So like sometimes the smoke detector goes off and I just don’t want to deal with that during a class. But you know, if you have to, you have to and always keep a little, they sell like mini fire extinguishers. You can keep one in your kitchen.
Megan Porta 14:45
Oh my gosh. I wish someone would’ve told me that beforehand. That would’ve been good. I was over there like fanning it with my hand.
Ashley Covelli 14:51
Oh my gosh.
Megan Porta 14:52
Oh my God. Okay, so you mentioned earlier partnering with organizations. So how do we know whether we should just do this solo right off the bat or if we should partner with somebody?
Ashley Covelli 15:02
So I think there’s a lot that you need to kind of look at ahead of time. Like for a while I was selling individual ticketed cooking classes. So all of the promotion coming up with the materials, all that fell on me and it was a lot. And like sometimes I would have great sales, sometimes it wouldn’t be as much or I wouldn’t have as much time to focus on actually promoting. So when you partner with either say a company who wants to do like a team building exercise or like, I partner with a lot of libraries, there’s local community centers, things like that. Or, or just families like doing private classes. If you’re partnering with an organization that has reach and they have people that they are already marketing to or they have their calendar online with their events, it kind of helps in a way because you don’t have to take it all on yourself. So I think that’s a good, it’s a good step to try to like lessen the pressure on yourself a little bit. because I’m, I certainly can overcomplicate things and Yeah. It’s nice to have somebody else to do that. And then when you’re partnering with an organization like a library for instance, they might have different themes that they do like for the month. Like there was one month it was like Hispanic Heritage Month, so they were like, Hey, could we do something like in this arena recipe wise? And so sometimes you get a little guidance so you’re not just kind of throwing, throwing anything out there. And I think that that can help too.
Megan Porta 16:28
So, how do we find these organizations? Or do you just simply call the library and ask?
Ashley Covelli 16:34
So, well, I think a, if you don’t patronize your public library, you should. They’re such great resources. I mean especially like, I always have loved books, but when I had a young kid, there’s all these wonderful free programs, so like just taking advantage of the resources. Like you pay taxes, you’re already paying for them. Yeah. But there’s a lot of, I feel like if you’ve spent time there and you kind of get to know the people, that’s a great organic way to go about it. That’s how I did. But obviously if you’re starting now, you could always, with a library, there’s usually somebody that you would talk to like the head of adult services or teen services or children’s services or sometimes they might have a separate programming person altogether. And then like with me, once I started doing programs for one library, other local libraries that are like within the same system, the word kind of spread and so they’d reach out to me. So I didn’t do a ton of outreach on my own, which was nice. But you certainly could, I mean, anywhere that you, like, if you have a rec-center, you could go just go in and say like, Hey, you know, I, I offer this programming. Is this something that you think would be of interest to you or your, you know, the clients or the local people who come in.
Megan Porta 17:47
Ashley Covelli 17:48
Yeah, churches. Absolutely. I thought it would be really cute to like look at maybe like retirement centers or something. Oh. But like I just, I like, I really have a fondness for like kids and old people Yes. So I feel like that could be fun, but I feel like there might be, it might be a little tricky with, yeah, I don’t know. It could be a little tricky. And I know like right now with it’s what getting toward the end of 2023, a lot of places got a little zoom fatigue during the pandemic. Yeah. So a lot more people are interested in, in-person cooking classes. But there is really especially for kids, if you’re good with kids and they make very eager learners, it’s a lot of fun. There’s a lot of opportunity to actually work in person with people around food.
Megan Porta 18:32
What about schools? Do you ever go into schools?
Ashley Covelli 18:36
So I have, I’ve done, like for my son’s school, I would go in, we did like corn muffins one year. But like we made them, I had to bring them home to bake them and then bring them back. Oh. Because they don’t, you know, they don’t have like a kitchen. But it was around Thanksgiving. So we were doing that. I’ve done where like I’ve baked cookies and brought them in and we’ve decorated them. A couple years ago I did a like hot cocoa mix. because One of my teachers in middle school did that with my class. And it’s something that like kind of stuck with me and has become like a family tradition. So around this time of year, that year I did that with my son’s class and that was, they’re a little older. It was pretty messy, but it was a lot of fun.
Megan Porta 19:17
So for your in-person events that you do, do you charge money or do you just do it for reach or both?
Ashley Covelli 19:23
Oh no, I, so I always charge, it’s a lot. There’s a lot of work that goes into it. And if you’re looking to make like a lot of money doing cooking classes, I would say libraries aren’t necessarily the way to go because it’s a, you know, it’s a community organization. They do have a budget, but it’s not going to be huge. I just kind of like have this affinity for the connection in the community. So I kind of, I’m still making money, but it probably, probably the hourly rate is not amazing. But doing something like reaching out to corporate, whoever’s in charge of HR or something for like a team building type of thing that you’re, that you could do more high-end.
Megan Porta 20:05
That’s a good idea. Yeah. Just like big corporations who do, they look for those opportunities all the time. Yeah.
Ashley Covelli 20:11
I remember when I had a corporate job, they had like, somebody come in and did like yoga for everybody and it was like, you know, I’m sure she made a lot more money than she would’ve if she did like a small private class or whatever.
Megan Porta 20:21
Yeah. Oh, that’s such a good idea. And if you live in a big city, you can just kinda look around like what it, what headquarters are there and just reach out to those. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Anything else about in-person classes?
Ashley Covelli 20:33
I think just being aware of like what, what you’re actually working with and the age of the people that you’re working with. Because I’ve found younger kids, like elementary age are actually way more adept often in the kitchen than teenagers because they’re not distracted by their phones. They’re not like, they’re more eager to like learn and pay attention. They haven’t hit that, like that phase, you know, you have kids, I mean it’s fine. So it’s like, you know, so I think that a lot of times I would do the same class, like the same theme for two different age groups. And the younger kids actually were like more on the ball with it, like getting things done in a good amount of time. Yeah. which was kind of funny. The other thing, find out if, if you’re doing this, like partnered with a place who’s doing the setup and the dishes. So like one library I worked with, I did everything. Another one, I would give them a list. They would do the shopping, I would come help them set the room up. But they had someone who would do dishes because dishes is like, honestly one of the worst parts. because It’s, it’s so much cleanup. So, you know, paying attention to that.
Megan Porta 21:45
It’s the bane of our existence as a food blogger. The dishes, we never, we never get taught about the fact that there are going to be piles of dishes afterward. We’re like, oh this will be a fun job. Oh wait.
Ashley Covelli 21:55
Yeah. And if you’re doing a class, whether it’s online or in person, you have to like, you can’t really clean as you go so well because you’re busy like, you know, walking people through things. So it’s just like all at the end.
Megan Porta 22:08
Oh gosh. That’s overwhelming. Yeah. That’s a good thing to think through in advance. And even if you could bring somebody with you to maybe help with that.
Ashley Covelli 22:16
Yeah, yeah, for sure. I feel like getting like a high-school kid or something. To just like, you know, put some, like some, I’m all about that, my son is like great with editing video. Like, yeah. Yeah. Dishes. Dishes not so much. But I know, you know, certain, certain things you can outsource.
Megan Porta 22:34
It takes me a lot to get my kids to do the dishes without a very bad attitude.
Are you tired of falling through the cracks as a seasoned food blogger? It’s just assumed that once a food blogger gets to a certain number of years or a certain level of traffic that they don’t need resources or direction any longer. We’re good. Right? No, we’re not good. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Seasoned food bloggers need guidance and relevant information too. There are ways to find the guidance and support we need, such as high quality mastermind groups and retreats. But if those options don’t align with your budget or your schedule, then you’re kind of out of luck. We are relegated to sorting through all the information in Facebook groups when we don’t know how trustworthy the sources of information even are. All of this is exactly why my friend Melissa, the blogger behind Mama Gourmand and I have decided to put together a workshop style summit geared specifically toward advanced food bloggers. We are gathering no more than 50 people in Denver, Colorado in May, 2024 to give monetized food bloggers the love and support they need and deserve. Go to flavormediasummit.net to get all the information you need about speakers, dates, our vision for the event, and to fill out an application. This experience is going to be highly valuable and one of a kind. We cannot wait to see some of you there. Many of the spots have already been taken for this event. So if this is intriguing to you, fill out an application today, go to flavormediasummit.net. Follow the link to tickets and application and apply today.
Ashley Covelli 24:11
So the other thing though about working with kids and I mean I, I don’t mind, I said I like trivia. I don’t mind like throwing that in for adults too. But I would kind of build in like extra time for if it took them a while to get through something. But I had come with like, if we were doing like we did mini pizza bagels. I came in with like trivia about like the ingredients that go into pizza and stuff like that. So if you have something that’s like baking, what are you going to do for the 8, 10, 12 minutes? It’s in the oven, you know, so there’s going to be like dead time. So that’s kind of something you need to think about. I’ve had like, I did one where we were making puppy chow. Is that called that everywhere? It was a teen class and that was in person and I had them like kind of trivia and like whoever would get the answer right. Got to pick like extra mix-ins, so like extra candy. So just kinda like gamifying things and making it more interactive so it’s not just like we’re mixing these things in a bowl and then we’re waiting, you know?
Megan Porta 25:11
That’s the awkward part. I did think through before I did, I’ve only done a few virtual classes, but the few that I did, that was the part where I was like in my head, oh crap, what? What am I going to talk about? So then I just was like, do you guys have any questions? And people started asking me random questions about like, my blog, like when did you start blogging? And then like, wait a second, this doesn’t have anything to do with the recipe. So thinking through that is probably good.
Ashley Covelli 25:36
Yeah. And you can always like ahead of time if you’re like, if you’re doing a virtual class especially, I feel like this kind of lends itself if you have an ingredient that’s either in the recipe or making that you could just talk a little more about, or like sometimes I’ll be making something and I’ll be like, oh there’s this other recipe that if you ever want to make something similar to this, it involves this ingredient and I’d like pull it out and talk about it. Like pomegranate molasses. Just like something that’s a little different. Yeah. If I’m doing, especially with kids, if I’m doing like a dried or fresh herb, sometimes I’ll show them like, Hey, this is what it looks like dried, but this is what it looks like fresh. Or this is what a cumin seed looks like and this is what it looks like when it’s ground. Stuff like that just to kind of like involve other senses in it.
Megan Porta 26:22
And if you’re doing in person, you could have people smell it too. Especially kids who don’t know those smells yet. That would be really good way to just engage them and like, I don’t know, keep them interested.
Ashley Covelli 26:33
Yeah. One of the most fun ones that I did with like kind of the middle school aged kids, we, the last one of whatever session we were doing, we did like a kind of like a mystery box chopped challenge kind of thing. And so we had all these bags full of different ingredients and we enlisted like four of the librarians to judge. So each team had like a certain amount of time to make whatever dish. And then the librarians came in and like judged blind, like which dish they liked best. And it was just like, I think we gave them extra points for like whoever took the most creative photo of it with their phone. Oh. So, you know, just like making it more fun and not always about following a recipe, because following a recipe is important, but you can also have fun with things.
Megan Porta 27:17
And not just being the teacher lecturing, you’re actually engaging them. That’s huge. Especially for your kids. Okay. Anything else about in-person? This is all so interesting. I love it.
Ashley Covelli 27:28
I think just, you know, realize that everybody’s human some days are going to be harder than others and like, try to have fun with it and just be approachable. because I feel like if you’re easygoing and having a good time with it, it won’t be as intimidating for people. And at the end of the day, like that’s what we want. We want people to like, want to get into the kitchen and cook. And especially like the younger generation, like having that be a skill that they bring to their adult wife, you know?
Megan Porta 27:55
Well I think this concept is a little bit intimidating for people, which can make people a little more anxious and kinda rigid and on edge. So do you have tips for that? Is it just repetition or do you have any other tips?
Ashley Covelli 28:08
Repetition definitely helps. I think selecting recipes that take a lot less time than the time you have is really important so that you’re not like cramming if something goes awry or somebody has a hard time, you’re not like trying to catch up too hard. And then, yeah, just practicing. Like I feel like even with like a musician, like they still get butterflies before a big show, even if they’ve played a million times. It’s just like part of the experience of it.
Megan Porta 28:34
Yeah. Just do it. Keep doing it.
Ashley Covelli 28:36
Keep doing it. Well and like if you’re, oh, so we’re talking in person, just keeping good connection with the whoever’s in charge. So if it’s a library, the librarian or you know, an HR rep if you’re working with a company or a the family member who hired you. Like I’ve done private cooking classes for families. Like just keeping in touch with them and following up and being like, you know, Hey, is there anything like coming up that you would like to, you know, do another cooking class for? Or is there, like what, what was the feedback from either the patrons or you know, your clients or whoever Client appreciation is, that’s another one that I’ve done before. Oh yeah. Like there’s a local realtor who’s hired me a couple times to do programs for her like end of the year thanks to all her clients. So there’s a lot of different ways you can go with it.
Megan Porta 29:24
So word of mouth, I imagine for you is huge. People just start talking about you. Yeah, yeah. Share your name. Share you.
Ashley Covelli 29:31
Megan Porta 29:32
Okay. So what is the difference between virtual classes based on everything you’ve talked about? What do we have to do differently for those?
Ashley Covelli 29:39
So if you’re fortunate to have great natural light, that’s amazing. I am not so I have to set up lighting in my kitchen. Also. You, I mean, you never know with the weather, like you could have a lot of windows and everything, but if the weather’s kind of funky, you really want people to be able to see what they’re, what they’re doing with you. I have a two camera setup, so I use my laptop. I actually, to get it to the right height, I have it on top of like the base of a tea maker, which is kind of ridiculous but, you know, whatever works. because You want it to be at a good height. And the way my kitchen is set up, it’s kind of, that’s my main camera. It’s kind of like a side view, but then I have like a little overhead angle that I use on my phone and I do it over zoom. So I’m able to pin or spotlight both of those angles so people can see both at the same time just to kind of get a sense of, you know, what I’m chopping or whatever. And then occasionally I’ll just like take my phone over to the stove if they need to see it. Otherwise I’ll bring things like from the stove top to show them on the camera so they can see like, you know, this is the texture you’re looking for or when you, or explaining, like explaining what you need to smell or see or feel since they’re not there in person with you. I think that’s really helpful. And then I have a lab mic that the receiver plugs into my laptop and then I clip it onto my apron. I’m trying to think if there is any other equipment.
Megan Porta 31:06
Sounds pretty simple.
Ashley Covelli 31:07
It’s pretty simple. If you have an ethernet cable, like plug into the ethernet because your connection will be better. So I usually do that.
Megan Porta 31:15
That’s a good tip. And then how do you go about like getting your people together for this class and announcing it and how long and all of that?
Ashley Covelli 31:25
That gets tricky. So depending on, like when I do them with the library, it’s in, it’s on their calendar. I have an events tab on my website. So I list, since I do things with various public organizations and everything, I list everything there. So somebody wants to do a class with me that’s hosted by the Austin Library. They don’t have to live in my town, but they can still join and they can get, they can link to the registration info there versus somewhere else. You know, social media, email lists, word of mouth is really great. But yeah, I think it depends too, like certain organizations have more tech savviness, if you will. Than others. So I mean also legitimately like printing out a flyer and putting it up at the coffee shop or whatever like that. People find things in all sorts of different ways. So you can’t just assume because, you know, I’m scrolling on Instagram, I can’t assume that somebody else will.
Megan Porta 32:22
But you do tap into your blog audience, I assume. Get people that way. And then how big are your virtual classes typically?
Ashley Covelli 32:30
It depends. I want to say like the most, maybe that I would have comfortably without another person. Like, like a lot, lot of times a librarian or somebody will stay on and kind of help like wrangle in the chat if we need, if there’s questions that I’m not catching. But I would say like comfortably, like 20 people is like comfortable. If I’m completely solo, I could handle more depending on how involved the recipe is. I don’t know what, the most I’ve had was probably in the forties, but lately, like I said, I think people are a little, a little zoomed out. Yeah. So the classes are a little smaller, which is kind of nice because you can interact more. One-On-One, people aren’t necessarily as shy to ask if they have questions.
Megan Porta 33:13
And then how long is a class? I suppose it depends on the recipe. Like how, what like is there something that’s too long?
Ashley Covelli 33:20
I like to do an hour like, as kind of the suggestion, but depending, like one of the client appreciation groups that I do, we do like an hour and a half. I think anything beyond that is a little, might get a little much for people. And if I’m doing an hour and a half, like we’re doing like a cocktail or a mocktail, an appetizer and like a main dish or like a dessert, you know, like we’re doing multiple hangout things, that’s not, it’s a, yeah. Like we’re hanging out, we’re having a good time, we’re chatting. Yeah. You know, and not everybody that comes is going to cook and that’s fine. Like they might just want to come and hang out and cook later. I know when I attend other people’s virtual classes, I like to sit and watch and like see what they’re doing and then I’ll go do it again on my own another time. So it just kind of depends on your style.
Megan Porta 34:05
And then how do you sell tickets and what is a good price point?
Ashley Covelli 34:10
This is, so I used to use Air subs. That was the thing like 2020. It was so wonderful and then it, they went out of business. I kind of stopped doing individually ticketed classes because it got clunky to do. The system that I had figured out was like a gum road like product listing. It was, it’s a little clunky, but like, you can do it that way. I have had more success with like selling the class to like a company or a private client Okay. Or whatever. And then, so I’m making the same amount of money regardless of how many people show up on their end. I have had, there was one like a, kinda like a YMCA type of place that did, like, they paid me a certain amount and then they charged for tickets, which I thought was kind of strange. But, because I was like, oh, well are you making more money than what you’re paying me? You’re, you know, I’m doing all the stuff. But you know, it was their audience. So, yeah. And I think price-wise, I mean, it really depends. Like I was saying before, a corporate, you know, if Coca-Cola wants to do a cooking class with you, like you’re going to charge them more than you’re going to charge like a family in your neighborhood that wants to do cookies, you know?
Megan Porta 35:26
You kinda have to feel out who you’re targeting and Absolutely. Who you’re working with. Yeah. Now if somebody were doing it just on their own, like to their audience solo. do you have a recommendation for pricing with that?
Ashley Covelli 35:38
I really, I don’t, I’m so bad with talking like money it. I feel like there’s so many factors, like the ingredients that you’re using, like what type of recipe is it? If you, if you’re able to figure out like what you want your hourly rate to be, you could then see like, okay, I would need to sell this many tickets at this price to make this hourly rate. Or if you charge a flat rate, I don’t know. I think it gets really tricky.
Megan Porta 36:05
Yeah. I guess like figuring out how many people you want to be there about approximately. your hourly rate and then kind of base it on that. When I was doing my few virtual classes, I think I was charging between, okay. It’s been a long time so I might be wrong. But I think it was like between 15 and like $40 a ticket. I mean depending on like, there was one recipe that was really extensive and took, like, it took me all day to prep and I was like, I’m charging a little bit more for this. And I mean, I never had any more than probably 10 to 12 people show up. So, I mean that was decent.
Ashley Covelli 36:45
I want to say when I was charging per ticket, and again, it’s been a while since I’ve done that particular format, I want to say like 20, $25. Yeah. Somewhere around there where it’s like, it doesn’t feel like a splurge to people. And for a while I was charging less for kids classes and they were a little bit shorter, but then I think I kind of evened everything out.
Megan Porta 37:03
Yeah. That makes sense. Yeah. Okay. Anything else we need to know about virtual classes?
Ashley Covelli 37:09
I think just put yourself out there. Like it doesn’t hurt to try. And if it’s not for you, it’s not for you. And just like getting in front of the camera and just talking to it. Like it’s somebody hanging out in the kitchen with you instead of like, feeling like you’re on a stage in front of a bunch of strangers is really important.
Megan Porta 37:26
That’s a hard one. A lot of people don’t do social media or video for this very reason. They don’t want to be in front of the camera.
Ashley Covelli 37:33
You know, I always was like, I went to art school. I always was into like, like film photography, all this stuff. So I would be very used to being behind the camera, not in front of the camera. And I never thought I wanted to be in front of the camera. But then I was on a press trip years ago and they had like a cooking competition and we were part of the cooking competition and it was like one of the people from Food Network was one of the judges. And we were like, I was like, okay, well I’m just going to have to get comfortable being in front of the camera, I guess. And it wasn’t like, it was a lot of fun because I just didn’t put pressure on myself. And I was like, okay, maybe this wouldn’t be so hard. So I started doing like random Facebook lives. I’d be like, all right, like on Friday I’m going to go live on Facebook and I’m just going to, you know, people can come hang out while I make whatever. And that just kind of got me more comfortable, like being on the camera and like engaging with people as they’re talking to me in real time. So I think that kind of got me more comfortable so that when it came to like actually trying to sell something that I’m like interacting with people.
Megan Porta 38:32
It’s not so weird or awkward.
Ashley Covelli 38:34
Yeah. And again, really being able to laugh at yourself is huge. And like not taking yourself too seriously and realizing that as perfectly set up as everything could be. Like something probably will go wrong and it’s okay. Like it’s fine.
Megan Porta 38:47
Hopefully it’s not a fire.
Ashley Covelli 38:48
Hopefully it’s not a fire and if it is, hopefully you contain it properly. But yes.
Megan Porta 38:53
Oh my gosh, I kind of forgot about that. I think I blacked that experience out. But oh gosh, I get sweaty just thinking about it. Okay. Any, I guess thoughts about getting comfortable? I know like doing stories on Instagram was one way that I taught myself to get comfortable. Way back in the day. I was the most awkward person ever. I’d be like, hi, I am Megan. I am here to teach you about lemon curd. Like what? And I knew that I needed to change that, so I just started getting on stories and like as painful and awkward as it was, I just talked for like one minute a week or something like that.
Ashley Covelli 39:30
Oh totally. I think like, I’m definitely like recovering perfectionist. So just like trying to let go of that as much as you can. And I think like for me with realizing that live interaction is better for me than like scripting and like overthinking and overproducing. Because if you’re live, like it’s just what happens. And like that’s, that’s what it is. And the next time you can do something differently if you want. So if definitely doing Instagram stories is a great way to do that. And if you, if you’re really paranoid about it, if you don’t just want to rip you could make like just a couple bullet points. Like don’t write out a paragraph of what you’re going to talk about. because Then you’ll read it word for word. But if you just wrote like a couple things that you want to talk about and just like touch on those things and just see what comes up. And you don’t have to record In the Instagram app, I always record things on my camera separately. So if I completely flub it I can just rerecord and then upload it. Like you don’t have to like stories are a safe place to kind of like experiment with it a little. You could still totally start over if you want before you go live. Yes. But yeah. Just go with the flow and realize that like it’s not that serious. And goofing up makes you human. And I think people appreciate that. Like at the end of all my classes, I share cooking class, aftermath video, just showing like what a disaster my kitchen looks like because people don’t usually see that. And I can’t clean as I go when I’m teaching. So I get more comments on that than a lot of things. People are so like, oh my gosh, like I’ll do your dishes. Can I eat your food? It’s like, I wish like that would be a great.
Megan Porta 41:07
Oh that’s awesome. Okay. Any other tips, Ashley, about any of this? This is so good. I’m actually feeling inspired and I didn’t prior to our chat, I did not want to do this But yeah, any just things that we’ve missed before we start saying goodbye that you feel like we need to mention?
Ashley Covelli 41:24
I think making sure that you don’t overdo it because I definitely did like, it’s hard to say no when you have people that are interested in whatever area of your business. You know, whether it’s like Sponsored posts or affiliates or teaching classes. Like you just need to make sure that you kind of like protect your energy levels and that you’re putting yourself into it like at a good level so you’re not, I know I was doing like seven or eight classes a month for a while and it was too much. I had fun with it, but it was like physically it was a lot. Yeah. Especially keep in mind, if you’re doing a virtual class at home, you have your setup including whatever recipe testing, whatever like packet you’re going to put together or recipe cards ahead of time. Plus setting up your kitchen, plus doing the class plus cleaning up after the class. So what’s only a one hour class is really a lot more work than that. So just keep that in mind when you’re figuring out like what you want to charge and how often you can do it.
Megan Porta 42:23
Yeah, that’s really great advice. You don’t always think about that prep work and how extensive and just the tech and setting that up and making sure everything’s working. I remember that being an ordeal. Like, oh my gosh, I’m so tired. By the time I was done I was exhausted.
Ashley Covelli 42:39
Oh, for sure. And test your gear. Like if you could, like if you’re doing your classes over Zoom, which is what I do, you know, my mom lives in another state, so I’ll be like, Hey mom, like could you like hop on a zoom with me? I want to make sure like the lighting looks good or the sound is working right. And charge your microphone. Always charge your microphone. And you may think that having the microphone on your computer is enough, but if you’re moving around the kitchen, you’re not always right there. So I really recommend having one of those little clip on lab mics.
Megan Porta 43:09
And they’re so easy. They’re very affordable and they’re very easy and intuitive to use as well.
Ashley Covelli 43:14
Yeah. And I just, I charge mine after every class that I teach, but then I also charge it again before every class I teach just in case from sitting in the closet for a week or whatever, two weeks. You never know it’s not going to hurt and you don’t want it to go dead. And, but on the flip side of that, if you realize it’s not charged and your class is about to start, don’t panic, it’s fine. Just speak a little more loudly. Tell people, Hey, let me know if you’re having a hard time hearing. I’ll come closer to the microphone. I usually tell people at the beginning of class, don’t be afraid to ask questions. We’re very open to feedback and you know, I want you to have success here. If I’m talking too slowly, which never happens or too fast like a Gilmore girl, just let me know. I can slow it down if you need me to like show something again, like just putting people at ease, I feel like especially if you’re able to do that naturally. Like in your everyday life, it’s a big help.
Megan Porta 44:09
Oh, such great advice. Okay. I love this because this can be an additional stream of revenue, but it can also be a really great way to engage your people and pull more people in and get out in the community and meet new people and make new connections. So many good things come from this.
Ashley Covelli 44:24
Yes. And you’ll be known forever as the lady who made the library smell like Belgian waffles. like for real.
Megan Porta 44:31
I love it. Thank you so much, Ashley. This was such a great conversation. Thanks for your time today.
Ashley Covelli 44:36
Megan Porta 44:37
Do you have either a favorite quote or in words of inspiration to leave us with today?
Ashley Covelli 44:41
I do. I’ve, this has been this quote, I didn’t hear it from the original author when I first heard it, but it stuck with me forever. And I looked up who said it. Apparently that’s Penny Reed, who’s an author and she said, don’t set yourself on fire trying to keep other people warm. And that’s resonated with me in my life in so many ways, just especially as like a nurturing person or somebody who likes to care for others. It can be really easy to give everything to everybody and not maintain yourself. So I think being conscious of that and making sure that you’re not doing too much just to try to make other people comfortable is really important.
Megan Porta 45:19
You have no idea how much I needed that message this week. I mean this is like what my last season, my, this season has been about for me. Just like this very thing. So I almost got teary when you said that. I was like, no way. Thank you so much for saying that.
Ashley Covelli 45:34
I almost got teary hearing you get teary. It’s funny is like, it’s been, it’s been probably a decade since I’ve heard this and at various times in my life, like it’s come back and it just resonates on different levels all the time.
Megan Porta 45:46
I actually wrote it down and I’m going to put it, I have like this system where I put things on post-it notes when I just hear them and I need to be reminded of them. So I’m going to put that on a post-it note as soon as we’re done talking and I’m going to put it on my monitor. So thank you for inspiring me with that. Thank you for, yes. We will put together a show notes page for you, Ashley. If anyone wants to go peek at those, you can go to eatblogtalk.com/bigflavorstinykitchen. Tell everyone where they can find you, Ashley.
Ashley Covelli 46:14
So you can find me on my website. Bigflavorstinykitchen.com. I’m on the socials @BigFlavors and then I have this new side project that I’m working on with a friend. She’s a genealogist and we’ve teamed up, it’s called Passing the Plate. So we have passingtheplate.org. We’re doing, we’ve done a webinar and we’re doing a lot of things about like documenting your family recipes for future generations and just really connecting with family, whatever that means to you. Whether it’s your blood relatives, your chosen family, but just like really kind of nurturing your sense of like togetherness wherever you are in life. Because I feel like the world can be very isolating sometimes and just trying to bring that back, you know? Especially around food.
Megan Porta 46:57
That is so cool. When did you guys start that project?
Ashley Covelli 47:00
We’ve been trying to figure out for years how to work together and we met in a business mastermind a million years ago and just in October we did a webinar and then we got a really great response from that. And the ideas have just been kind of flowing. So we’ve got like a little workbook to help people collect stories behind the recipes as well as how to actually like document the recipes from people. And we’re just trying to get like all that cozy, those cozy feelings back.
Megan Porta 47:26
I love that. What a great project. That’s so cool.
Ashley Covelli 47:29
Megan Porta 47:30
And you can also find Ashley at Flavor Media in Denver. Super excited to meet you there in May.
Ashley Covelli 47:37
I’m excited. I went to Denver for the first time last summer and it was so much fun.
Megan Porta 47:41
It’s an amazing city. It’s so fun. Well excited to see you there at maybe a couple other of you who are listening too. But thanks again, Ashley, so much for being here. And thank you for listening food bloggers. I will see you in the next episode.
Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Eat Blog Talk. If you enjoyed this episode, I’d be so grateful if you posted it to your social media feed and stories. I will see you next time.
💥 Join the free EBT community, where you will connect with food bloggers, gain confidence and clarity as a food blogger so you don’t feel so overwhelmed by ALL THE THINGS!
Want to achieve your goals faster than you ever thought possible? Stop by Eat Blog Talk to get the details on our Mastermind program. This transformative 12-month experience will help you accomplish more than you would be able to in 5+ years when forging ahead alone.
Click the button below to learn what a mastermind program is, what your commitment is and what Eat Blog Talk’s commitment to you is.
✍️ Reach out to connect with Heather Eberle, a copywriter for food bloggers. As much as you enjoy your business, maybe writing or marketing isn’t your cup of tea. Maybe you’d rather spend more time in the kitchen and less time on your laptop. Heather is here to clear your plate!