"It's just all new, and it's hard," says Nicole Ammerman, -director of the Santa Fe School of Cooking. "We quickly realized that if it wasn't on our website, we weren't going to be able to sell it."
The Santa Fe School of Cooking turned 30 this year, just in time for COVID-19 public health orders to start restricting businesses from -offering in-person service—or classes. But during the initial lockdown in April, Ammerman and the school's staff worked quickly to create a series of online video classes that continue its mission of culinary education and that help it to remain a viable business.
The new way of doing things didn't come without a fair amount of trial and error. In those early days, for example, the school developed a number of one-on-one live experiences available by Zoom in addition to the pre–recorded segments. The live -sessions did not prove popular, however.
"We found out after running both for a while that there's not a demand for the live classes," Ammerman tells SFR. "It's harder for us because there's so much pressure to get things exactly right live."
Instead, Ammerman and company made Zoom classes available for businesses and large groups, both as a team building exercise, or for something fun to do with friends while stuck at home (and hopefully social distancing).
For those who wish to learn a new recipe with the help of a professional in their own time, however, the school has taken a number of steps toward accessibility. Most pre-recorded classes run just $20 apiece, and once purchased, can be permanently downloaded. The high-res videography makes observing the teacher easy, and time stamp bookmarking allows students to easily jump to any step in the recipe. When it comes to dishes that are a little more complicated than your average fare, that's an important element, and with classes for dishes like masa-crusted porkchops, blue corn tamales with calabacitas, carne adovada, red chile from pods and many others, it's a breeze to snap back to that important moment you may have missed.
But since 'tis the season for thinking about Thanksgiving (and we're all committed to not tracking COVID-19 to our loved one's homes even if it means cooking the meal ourselves for once), the current class to beat might be chef Allen Smith's newly released Modern Southwest Thanksgiving. Dishes include Brussels sprouts with cranberries, butternut squash and pecans, buttermilk mashed potatoes and more. The star of the show, though, is obviously the turkey roulade with mushroom stuffing, basted with chipotle. Oh, and dessert's a pumpkin soufflée with honey and orange.
You can even tack harder-to-find ingredients to your video purchase. That's handy in case you're wondering how the hell you were going to throw together a pumpkin soufflé with whatever you have at home.
Of course, if you're too hungry or impatient to try and learn anything—and since sometimes the best meal is the one someone else made—the school also offers trays of enchiladas, tamales by the dozen, carne adovada by the quart and lots more for pickup, delivery or mail.
"A lady from Oklahoma was here for like a month, and when she went back home, she ordered 10 pans of enchiladas, 10 quarts of carne adovada—it was like a $750 worth of food out of our kitchen," Ammerman says. "We were like 'What are you doing!?' and she's like, 'I have to have your food back in Oklahoma!'"
Things have been going so well, in fact, that Ammercan says the school plans to continue filming and offering online classes and to-go items once the pandemic is over.
"Covid has been tough," she says, "but we've been able to accomplish some things that we've always talked about doing but never had the time to."
Serves 10 to 12
- 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 2 tbsp. melted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Thoroughly combine the crumbs, sugar, and butter.
- Press the mixture onto the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan.
- Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
- 1 1/2 pounds cream cheese at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 3/4 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
- 2 tsp. ground canela or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp. Mexican vanilla
- Whipped cream
- Fresh strawberries
- In a mixer with a paddle attachment, whip the cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs and the pumpkin.
- Continue beating until the mixture is smooth.
- Add the canela or cinnamon and vanilla and incorporate thoroughly.
- Pour the cream cheese mixture into the prepared crust and bake approximately 1 hour, or until set.
- Turn off the oven and let the cheesecake sit for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and chill.
To serve, top with whipped cream and berries.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly asserted Smith's Thanksgiving class ran $90. It actually costs $20.