What’s the best way to learn how to make a dish? Hands-on instruction from someone who knows it inside and out. For some, that’s their mother or another relative; others encounter a culinary learning experience on a trip abroad. But League of Kitchens wanted to bring that sort of instruction to everyone. So they enlisted immigrant home cooks in NYC to lead cooking courses–harnessing their invaluable expertise and creating well-paying jobs in the process.
The program currently features six instructors, each from a different nation and an expert in that nation’s cuisine: there’s Afghani and Lebanese classes, Korean and Greek. These instructors teach cooking classes out of their own homes, helping students craft a multi-course meal, and then, of course, together enjoying the fruits of their labors in a big meal at the end.
But what makes the program so interesting is its professionalism. Classes aren’t cheap at $200/each, but League of Kitchens searched extensively for the best candidates and provides them with a great deal of instruction, Chris Crowley wrote in his excellent look at the program: “Instructors are paid $25 an hour for three hours of prep, five-and-a-half hours of class, and an hour of follow up. In addition, they’re paid for three months of intensive training, wherein they teach two practice workshops and attend two other instructor’s workshops.” These aren’t impromptu, informal sessions, although they are intended to be intimate and personal, operating out of private homes. Rather, the program helps the instructors take their current skills and from that, create a viable job. Home cooks and professional cooks operate in two very different spheres, but League of Nations, in a way, bridges that gap.