Last summer, I became one of the early adopters of Google+. Having fully immersed myself in other social media platforms, I was curious to see how this new one would play out. For those of you unfamiliar with the platform, Google+ is a social media platform that enables interactions, similar to Facebook, but it allows you to sort and aggregate the people you follow, in order to selectively send information that is appropriate for those “circles” (e.g. You might want to send BFFs and acquaintances different sets of information via the same platform).

The other interesting addition that Google made was the inclusion of Hangouts – a real-time, live-video interface with up to 10 people. Early last summer, my thoughts were … that’s kind of cool, but I had not made any connections as to how it might change the way I interact professionally on the web.

Needless to say, when I was approached by Joe Saad, the founder of ChefHangout.com with a proposition to join the inaugural group of chefs in a series of online cooking classes using Hangouts; I was intrigued. Our first interactions were, of course via Google Hangout, and I began to see how this platform could enable wider connectedness with those interested in what I do for a living, but also a new way of conveying information and a new model of learning!

Until now, I’ve been using social media as a tool to connect with community, and to promote things that are going on with my business (in that order). I’ve been observing how different brands interact on social media — seen the contests, the Wwitter chats, and thought it was interesting, but really the same model of engagement we’ve been used to all along, just on a social media platform, and sometimes it can seem forced. The thing that really attracted me to the idea of using Hangouts as a learning tool, is that while it is a very new way of interacting, it feels genuine and more personal.

The benefits of real-time interaction

I do a lot of gluten and grain-free cooking and baking – customizing gluten-free recipes. On the gluten-free baking front, seeing subtle differences in consistency is critical for success – and with gluten-free baking experts being so far-flung, getting that first-hand perspective has been all but impossible unless you are in the same city! In this area, the addition of as little as 2 tablespoons extra liquid, or a difference in oven temperature of 25 degrees can make or break your recipe! Its certainly not the end of the world, but definitely not an experience that encourages you to try baking again anytime soon. And that is my ultimate goal. While I cook for other people for a living, I am really passionate about democratizing food.

For me personally, the appeal of this new approach to learning is that it is truly interactive and there are no limits to who can join. I can be in a Hangout with someone on the other side of the country, with them cooking along with me, step-by-step. If they have questions about the caramelization of their onions, or the texture of their gluten-free bread dough, we can see what’s happening on-the-spot, and adjust as we go.

Get the cooking skills you want

  1. You learn by cooking along with the instructor. Many people are kinesthetic learners, and need to physically go through the motions in order to learn.
  2. Classes are small. Google Hangouts are limited to 10 people, so there will never be more than 9 other people in your class, meaning you have a chance to ask questions as you go.
  3. You get dinner (or cake!) at the end of the class. Classes are real-time, and because you are cooking along with the instructor, you will end up with something new that you have created, and you have dinner ready.

What else is different about hanging out with chefs?

Food is a uniting force, and sharing a meal with family or friends is the ultimate bonding experience. Many of us however, are separated by geography and don’t have that many opportunities in a year to share that time together. Part of the appeal for me, was the fact that ChefHangout.com is virtual, meaning friends from across the globe can all sign up for the same class. They can learn something new together, I can bow out of the Hangout at the end of the class, and they can continue to talk over a meal!

Conclusion

There is no doubt that food unites and there is nothing that can replace the way we used to learn how to cook – at the stove, with a mentor guiding us through; this comes pretty close to that.

Its early days for this new venture, but I’m excited by the prospects because this is a totally new way of learning and communicating about food! I encourage you to check out ChefHangout.com – there are 24 chefs in total involved with the launch, so there’s sure to be something that piques your taste buds!

(Photo credit: Assortment of Fresh Vegetables via Shutterstock)

Disclaimer: I am not being paid or compensated to endorse Google+ or any Google products. I do receive monetary compensation for cooking classes I conduct through chefhangout.com.

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