Some people say that cooking is an art but I feel that it’s more of a craft— something you can master through practice. It’s accessible and democratic because at core, it’s simply about food. If you make as many mistakes as I have, you eat them up (or maybe discard them if they’re really really bad), then you do it again. After a bit of practice, a challenging recipe or technique becomes part of your routine, your culinary craft. For example it took me a while to figure out how to make pot stickers with lovely crispy bottoms like the ones in the above photo.
That’s my attitude for learning, writing, and teaching about Asian food and cooking. Earlier this year, a company called Craftsy invited me to collaborate on an online class. I suggested Asian dumplings. Who doesn’t love dumplings(?!) and they can be made from many ingredients within reach. My Asian Dumplings workshops fill quickly but frankly, it’s not cost effective for me to travel around to teach.
I’d hoped that the enhanced ebook version of Asian Dumplings would fill the need for in-person classes but many people want a class experience with personal interaction. There are also many people who own Asian Dumplings but have yet to seriously crack the spine because they seem challenging. Other folks just want to explore dumpling making before diving in.
What is Craftsy? Is it like Etsy? Craftsy may kinda sound like Etsy but it's not an online marketplace. Craftsy produces and sells classes. It's an educational website that’s been super successful with high-quality, online classes for all kinds of DIY projects — from quilting and photography to cake decorating, artisan bread baking, and mastering cooking techniques like braising and sauces making. To build a robust offering of cooking classes, they were recruiting seasoned cookbook authors who were also experienced teachers.
Craftsy had worked with a number of my friends, colleagues, and heroes—such as Peter Reinhardt, Molly Stevens, James Petersen, Martha Holmberg, Giuliano Hazan, Alice Medrich, Evan Kleiman, and Cynthia Nimms. These are all well-respected stars in their areas of expertise. Their books may be on your shelves.
No celebrity chef instructors? I asked. Turns out they are not exactly what the Craftsy community of over 2 million people is interested in. Craftsy folks want to learn but on their own time, at their own pace, anywhere in the world. Moreover, people literally buy a Craftsy class for life to watch and use as many times as they like. And, they expect to interact with instructors via online forums, Pinterest-like photo sharing boards, and other communication channels on the Craftsy site. It’s not a one-time sign up. There are no advertisements on Craftsy.
Given all those factors, working with Craftsy was a fabulous opportunity. We seem to share common interests in using technology to help people learn, cook, and enjoy good food.
How was the dumpling class made? Over the course of a couple of months, I worked with editor and acquisitions manager Julia Taylor-Brown and then producer Alissa Norton; both were former editors in cookbook and magazine publishing. Together we outlined and planned the class and filming.
In September, I headed to Denver (Craftsy headquarters) for a week to shoot a class that we named “Favorite Asian Dumplings from Scratch.” We designed the class to focus on storebought skins and homemade wrappers, different fillings, dipping sauces, and cooking methods. Tips and discussions of Asian ingredients, culture, and history were woven in to provide context and frame the content. Like all cooks, I made mistakes and discussed potential hiccups in making Asian dumplings.
Technologically, I had my wish come true. A camera that captured a bird’s eye view of my hands working the dough as I demonstrated various dumpling shapes and other key techniques. All the other times that I’ve shot dumpling how-to video, the two cameras faced me. The result is that you’re watching me backwards. Not helpful. Ideally, you should be looking at the dumpling from my perspective, my eyes. It’s expensive to do a 3-camera shoot but Craftsy made it happen. I assure you that it makes a difference in figuring things out.
The twelve-hour days were long but super fun, even hilarious at points. We’d outlined and planned but I got to talk to the camera. Unscripted, as if I was in someone’s kitchen making dumplings. The three-day shoot yielded a fabulous class lasting several hours. Craftsy also brought in Laurie Smith, a photojournalist who has shot for Saveur, to capture stills. Karen Shinto traveled to Denver with me to assist and style too.
When I’ve done photo and video shoots before, the crew wasn’t interested in getting involved. With the Craftsy team, they volunteered to help me roll out wrappers and fill and shape dumplings. The production assistant, Samantha, was willing to come on camera to be my dumpling sidekick, of sorts. These folks totally get it about teaching and learning. They also relished the dumplings we made and ate as many of the edible ‘cast’ members as possible. Leftovers were brought back to the office, Alissa told me.
When I explained that VWK folks may not be familiar with Craftsy, the company suggested a pre-launch giveaway. If you’re interested in joining me for this exciting new way of learning, enter the giveaway and consider getting the class.
The giveaway lowdown:
- The prize: One (1) registration to Favorite Asian Dumplings from Scratch (value $39.99)
- Who can enter: Any member of Craftsy (it’s free to join and there is no purchase necessary)
- Does your location matter? No, Craftsy classes are accessible worldwide
- Who draws the winning entry: Craftsy
- Giveaway end date: 12pm (PST), Wednesday, October 30
- Giveaway winner announcement: Thursday, October 31
- How to enter: Complete and submit the entry form at Craftsy (don't leave a comment here)
Good luck! Btw, if you’re familiar with Craftsy, please share your experience below. I’d love to know how you liked it. Or, if you have questions about the class or Craftsy, pose them and I'll try to answer them. Because Craftsy is hosting the giveaway, submit your entry by using the form at Crafsy.