Now that the yuletide is drawin' nigh, some mighty mouthwatering smells will be waftin' from kitchens all over the land. Strangely enough, however, most of the good cooks responsible for those aromas are missin' out on a chance to earn cash from their home-grown cooking talent. (And extra cash can come in pretty handy to fill empty spaces under the Christmas tree or to stuff a few stockings with special gifts.)
It seems almost every chef has several specific dishes at which he or she excels. And no matter what your Christmas cooking specialty might be—fine fruitcakes, bread, tasty casseroles, a pungent pear relish, or some ethnic dish from out of your family's past—I'd be willing to bet that someone else would pay good money to taste your culinary wares or learn your secrets.
One of the best ways to market your kitchen skills is to teach a cooking class or two. You can often get such jobs through your local adult education center (where you'd probably have use of a school's home economics facilities), or you could simply turn your own kitchen into a classroom. Then too, women's clubs and church groups are often glad of a chance to provide their members with a demonstration of how to prepare some delicious holiday dishes and treats.
If you decide to teach, spread the news by word-of-mouth (for example, a club "show" could be a good time to sign up class members for an expanded, out-of-your-home course). Advertise in the local classifieds as well, and put up notices on public bulletin boards. You can charge about $3.00 or $4.00 per person per class (with perhaps $1.00 extra per session to cover food expenses), or better yet, simply set a flat rate of $25 to $30 for a five- or six-lesson course.
Now ... pull out all those lip-smacking recipes that you've tested and loved over the years. Do you have an impressive number of 'em? If so, why not put together your own cookbook? Duplicating services aren't all that expensive if you shop around, and your students—who, after all, have had a chance to taste the scrumptious dishes—are likely to snap up such a publication for a price that'll bring you a tidy profit. In addition, try to display your cookbook at local bookstores, and/or advertise and sell it through the mail. If your recipes have a wide appeal or a specific theme, you might even send them off to a publisher who specializes in kitchen anthologies.
Another way to earn some kitchen-created cash is to market your specialties at public events. People get a little tired of hot dogs, soft drinks, and manufactured sweets, so homemade cookies, cakes, pies, quiches, salads, preserves, etc. can be "hot" items at these affairs. (To determine your selling price, a general rule of thumb is to double your ingredient costs and add a little extra to absorb the usual booth fee.)
On the other hand, if you don't like dealing directly with the public, you might offer some of your special dishes to a local caterer. Or—if you have the time—even do some catering yourself. Many folks in your community would probably welcome a healthful, wholesome "banquet" brought to their homes or clubs from time to time. And along that same line, some of the health food stores and restaurants in the area might jump at the chance to have fine breads and other homebaked goodies delivered regularly to their doors.
The point is, it could be a mistake to keep your culinary talents hidden at home, when the holidays are a perfect time to make kitchen skills pay!
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