Chef Kwame Onwuachi
Chef Kwame Onwuachi Credit: Scott Suchman

Restaurants are closed, cooking classes are canceled, and the COVID-19 shutdown is grinding much of the food industry to a standstill, leaving a lot of chefs with unprecedented time on their hands. To keep busy, stay connected, and share their knowledge with a home-bound population looking for meal inspiration, a number of chefs are starting to offer free cooking classes online. 

Look for them on a variety of platforms. Top Chef breakout star Eric Adjepong shared his favorite comfort food recipes on TAA PR’s Instagram live feed, while Eva Kronenburg, a former pastry chef at Convivial, is turning out nearly a video a day for her YouTube channel, which concentrates on comfort foods, baked goods, and specialties from her native Philippines.

Both of Ed Hardy’s cooking jobs are on hold because of the pandemic. The executive chef at the swank lounge-restaurant Harlot in Shaw and a chef instructor at Cookology culinary school in Arlington is now live streaming free kitchen tutorials on the school’s Facebook page. “We’ve always wanted to expand into online videos, but we were always too busy,” Hardy says. “Now we have the time to take that next step.”

Earlier this week, Hardy hosted his first two online classes: one on basic knife skills and the other how to use celeriac or celery root. Going forward, Hardy and other instructors from the school will teach simple recipes, foundational techniques, and classes for kids. “We’re part of the Northern Virginia community, so we want to support the folks around us,” Hardy says. “This seemed like a good way for us to do it.”

In the coming days, Hardy will also start live-streaming cooking classes on Harlot’s Facebook page and Instagram, which will focus on the comfort food dishes he is planning to offer at the restaurant once it reopens, such as sliders, tacos, and a fried chicken banh mi. 

Kith and Kin Executive Chef Kwame Onwuachiis offering up decidedly different recipes. His newly minted “Eat Clean While Quarantined” series on Instagram live features dishes made with limited fat and sugar, a “manageable” amount of carbohydrates, and a protein. Clocking in at under 400 calories per serving, they require roughly 20 minutes to make. “At a time like this you can watch Netflix and eat poorly,” he says. “This is an alternative.” 

Onwuachi shares the ingredient list the day before going live so viewers can stock up. Earlier this week, he made chorizo and white bean stew with charred shrimp for a live online audience of nearly 600 in the kitchen of his Navy Yard apartment. “I was nervous,” he says. “Even though I’ve cooked on TV a million times, this is new for me. It was definitely different.”

To get ready for his debut, he started preparing at noon for his 5 p.m. broadcast. He ran through the recipe several times, put tape on the floor to mark where to stand, and figured out where his phone needed to be to get the best angles. “I didn’t just hit live and start winging it,” he says.

Mark Henry has sporadically filmed cooking videos in the past, but never in a regimented way. Most of his time is spent focused on his company, Island Bwoy Cuisine, which produces a global variety of sausages and jerk seasonings inspired by his Jamaican roots. He mainly sells to hotel clients in the region. However, his orders have tumbled from at least 1,700 pounds of deliveries a week to only 40. 

Suddenly, Henry has a wide-open schedule and he’s at home. The same goes for his 11-year-old daughter, Lizzy, whose school is closed. Henry and his wife wanted their daughter’s days to be filled with a mix of education and entertainment. Lizzy suggested that recording cooking videos with her father could be a good way to accomplish both.

Starting last week, the father-daughter duo began recording approachable recipe tutorials in their kitchen in Mount Zephyr, Virginia, which are streamed live and archived on several platforms, including Island Bwoy Cuisine’s Instagram

Each lesson highlights one of Henry’s products, often in an unexpected way. So far, they’ve made lasagna with jerk and Italian sausages, jerk pork dumplings, and pretzel-wrapped jerk sausages. The videos are fun and casual. During one cooking session they accidentally set off the smoke alarm. “We’re not trying to compete with Food Network stars,” Henry says. “The videos are just tremendous fun. And it’s great to see Lizzy’s confidence grow as she gets more comfortable presenting.”

Lincoln Fuge collaborates with his wife, Lauren Brooks, on his series “Chronicles of a Quarantined Chef.” The idea to start recording recipe tutorials came to Fuge, the executive chef of Present Company in Mount Vernon Triangle, as he was cleaning out the walk-in refrigerator and shutting down the restaurant. “It got my mind working,” he says. “How can I use all those random ingredients that have been sitting in my pantry for a year along with all these perishable items?”

When he got to his Columbia Heights apartment, Brooks, who is also the restaurant’s event coordinator, broke out a dry erase board to list all the ingredients on hand. From this “vision board,” they planned recipes to make, including seared salmon with curried parsnip puree, chicken cordon bleu, eggplant parmesan, and pizza. Fully embracing the “let nothing go to waste” mentality, recipes often use leftover components from previous episodes, so tomato sauce remaining from the eggplant parmesan goes on the pizza.

Fuge ends his videos with the tagline, “Stay sane and sated.”

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