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.