This post may contain some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission to help keep my blog up and running, but it won't cost you a penny more). For more information, please read my disclosure policy.
Rouxbe cooking school upped my game in the kitchen. It transformed dinner from dull to delightful, and me from indifferent to excited about getting in the kitchen. Before I completed culinary school, I was a somewhat lackluster home cook. I became a vegetarian, then vegan, in the last 10 years, so the meals I had 30-some years of confidence in preparing were the standard SAD (Standard American Diet), consisting of meat & potatoes, stews (with meat, of course), sausage pizzas, etc. There was rarely a dinner that didn’t include some animal product.
As I transitioned to a vegetarian diet, I reduced the amounts of meat that my family consumed, but it took awhile to commit to dropping all animal products from my own diet. That happened as I lost nearly 100 lbs. Being vegan made it easier to lose the weight and I started to feel better almost immediately. My blood pressure fell to normal levels, I could breathe more easily, digestive problems disappeared. One of my daughters became vegan as well. The only problem was that our meals were either processed frozen meals (I’m looking at you, Vegetarian Plus vegan Kung Pao Chicken!) or bland salads and vegetables. I had no clue how to make great-tasting vegan dishes, despite all the vegan cookbooks I purchased! What I needed was a guided hands-on program that would change the way I looked at food and teach me to be more creative.
Our first cooking assignment at Rouxbe’s Professional Plant-Based Culinary Course was to make and photograph our “go-to” plant-based dish. Since I had a stinker of a cold and I was running out of my supply anyway, I made my Sweet Potato and Parsnip soup. Although I used the concept of mise en place (assembling and preparing all of your ingredients before starting cooking) regularly, I’d never had to, well … make it pretty and photograph it before. I usually measured out all the spices into one dish and threw things, that were going to be combined & cooked at the same time anyway, into the same bowl. Rouxbe asked me to slow down, use proper knife skills, and actually create a proper mise en place. Here it is below. This soup is rustic and hearty and still one of my favorites.
In doing so, I discovered why a neat mise en place is essential to cooking. Your ingredients are all there in front of you. Essentially, the dish is assembled, just not yet prepared. You can’t forget the curry powder because you can see it, separate from the other spices. If you forgot to buy it, you have time to run to the store because the cooking hasn’t started yet. You know your vegetables will cook evenly because you cut them all the same size. There’s a symmetry and beauty to the mise en place – a quiet moment before the stove is fired up and things get moving.
Beside the cooking assignments, the Rouxbe classroom involved a lot of reading about kitchen basics. The early units covered how to submit assignments and get support from your peers and from the instructors, explanations about grading and assessments, how to work as part of a team, problem solving and more. It was presented in an engaging and fun way and I breezed through quickly.
Shortly after the intro topics, we were asked to reset our kitchens – pantry and refrigerator. This was a fun exercise and both ended up very clean and organized. I try to keep in mind what I learned every time I put food away and every time I tidy those spaces. There is a reason for how things are organized and – especially for a cook – it helps tremendously to be able to see at a glance what you have plenty of, and what needs to be added to the shopping list.
When you have members of your family that are not plant-based, you have the added complication of storing meat and other animal products. By resetting your kitchen, it is much easier to organize those non-vegan foods in their own areas, as well as making it a breeze to find and use your own ingredients.
We then dove into nutrition, methods of cooking (dry, moist, combination and raw), kitchen tools, caring for and using a chef’s knife, preserving pigments, culinary experiments, batch cooking, seasoning, herbs, spices, whole food sweeteners, smoothies, dressings and condiments, meat alternatives, dairy alternatives, homemade pastas and noodles, wellness cooking, gluten free cooking, raw gastronomy, global flavors and cooking, food for parties and creating your own dishes. We learned to use the Rouxbe Map of Cooking (video below) to plan, prepare and execute flawless dishes in a home kitchen. And there was cooking. A LOT of it, but everything that came out of my kitchen was delicious and taught me to think about my ingredients in a different way, as well as to try out many new vegetables, spices, and products I didn’t even know about.
In the last months, we were encouraged (pushed!) to begin creating our own original recipes. It wasn’t a “you’re on your own” push. We had learned about flavor combining and exposed to Rouxbe’s and other students’ creations. I’ll tell you, there is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment when you experiment, test and finally produce an original dish! That’s when you know it was all worth it!
I especially loved that you could start the Rouxbe course when you wanted and progress through the content on your own schedule, at your own pace. It was a whirlwind of information and it was incredible and fun! Here are just a small sample of the many, many dishes, both homey and restaurant-quality that Rouxbe students learned to prepare:
- Rouxbe is an online school, so the interaction with teachers and students is not the same as it would be attending a physical school.
- Corrections, critiques, and answers to students’ questions are delayed due to being online.
- I would never have been able to attend a brick and mortar culinary school. There is one within a reasonable distance from my home (not the case for many people) but the cost is much higher and the structured class times would not have worked for me around my family and work schedules. Rouxbe gave me the opportunity to learn at my own pace and at the times of the day that worked for me. They are aware of the possible difficulties with distance learning, but they have developed a great system that works, with self-paced study, cooking assignments, live events, and an extensive member forum. Rouxbe has also set up a private Facebook group for students and there is near instant response to most questions by students who are ahead of you or graduated. Even after graduation, most students remain members of the group to help new students, refer job openings in the culinary and wellness field, and continue to be a mentoring community that is over 1600 strong at the last count.
- Rouxbe tells you that instructors will respond within 3-4 days to cooking assignments, but it’s been my experience that it’s much faster most of the time. Instructions for assignments are very clear and well explained and, in case of emergencies thrown at us by life, you have the right to appeal grades. I always felt that Rouxbe gave me the support I needed through the course and it was easy to get guidance when you needed it.
Rouxbe upped my cooking game and it helped me go from vegetarian to vegan without missing a single thing. Virtually every meat-based flavor can be replicated or even improved on when you know how. Want to be a vegan? Want to learn to be a home chef, maybe even move into a career in vegan cooking or teaching? Or do you just want to improve your health and learn how to make food that is not boring, bland, or difficult to prepare?
Then Rouxbe can make that happen for you! Check out, Rouxbe co-founder, Joe Girard’s video about how and why Rouxbe came about.
Then click this link (or any of the Rouxbe links throughout this review) and grab a spot in the next upcoming class! It will change your life!
If you haven’t already, check out my The 20 Kitchen Tools I Couldn’t Live Without!