Can Taking a MasterClass with a Chef Make You a Better Home Cook?

It depends on your level of commitment

Mossimo Bottura. Photo: MasterClass

While the online learning industry was booming before Covid-19, it has now become a central part of our lives. More Americans are taking online classes — even when it comes to cooking.

While many classes are free, MasterClass, the Rolls-Royce of online education platforms, is one of the first to partner with iconic celebrity chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, Alice Waters, Aaron Franklin, and Thomas Keller. The movie-like trailers showcase famous chefs sharing moments of culinary clarity and inviting us to join them for the ride.

Membership to the platform is $90 per class, with an option for an all-access pass for $180 a year ($15 a month). That annual fee is covered after taking two classes.

Do classes priced at a premium offer something different than what we can find free? Does learning to cook from some of the world’s best chefs translate to the home kitchen? I took a few classes to find out.

‘Gordon Ramsay Teaches Cooking I’

For beginners and those looking to build confidence in the kitchen.

Photo: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

“Gordon Ramsay Teaches Cooking” is one of the platform’s first cooking classes. The chef, who on television appears gruff with a fierce dedication to perfection, shows a gentler side and seems more joyful as he shares the fundamentals. Throughout the course, Ramsay explains each step thoroughly over 20 lessons; he addresses why skills matter, and explains his own career journey.

My favorite takeaway from the class is knife skills. I watch chefs quickly chopping vegetables and breaking down a chicken easily. I want that!

At the beginning of the 18-minute lesson, Ramsay reveals that knife skills take years to master and that precision, not speed, should be the goal. He shared elements essential to working with knives in the kitchen even before cutting anything — like proper posture and securing the cutting board.

My favorite takeaway from the class is knife skills. I watch chefs quickly chopping vegetables and breaking down a chicken easily. I want that!

He also emphasizes how to hold a knife properly and how to build confidence in using it, which includes finding a comfortable grip. He chopped a variety of produce, slowing down so we can see how he moves through a vegetable (I watched those parts of the lesson more than once) and shared tricks such as using the opposite hand as a guide while you’re chopping.

After this lesson, I learned the elements of knife work, how to troubleshoot, and how to build on what I’ve learned. While I’m not flying through slicing my local zucchini or supreming an orange, chopping and preparing vegetables has felt less stressful, and I might be moving a little bit faster than the speed of a turtle.

‘Modern Italian Cooking With Massimo Bottura’

For advanced beginners who are interested in telling a story through food.

Modern Italian Cooking” felt as though I was going to art class. This 14-lesson course taught by Mossimo Bottura focuses on his contemporary interpretation of traditional Italian dishes and how to adapt these techniques at home.

In one lesson, “Tagliatelle With Hand-Chopped Ragu” opens with a story about his connection to the dish. With his sous chef, Taka Kondo, he walks viewers through the recipe as Kondo executes each step, with Bottura jumping in occasionally.

As each ingredient is added, Bottura shares the importance of the particular order (carrots go in first because they take longer to cook) and what each element brings to the dish (onions for sweetness and celery for freshness, etc.). While this is not a knife skills course, he periodically talks about knife technique and its use. The level of detail at each step of the recipe makes it easy to follow along. Kondo plates the finished recipe as if it’s ready to go out to a customer. The whole experience feels very formal. If there’s something I don’t understand, the MasterClass message board or the PDF cookbook for the class is a great resource.

As an instructor, Bottura is a cheerleader; his infectious energy permeates each lesson. He encourages students to try new things, make mistakes, and tap into their food memories to put themselves into the dish.

As an instructor, Bottura is a cheerleader; his infectious energy permeates each lesson. He encourages students to try new things, make mistakes, and tap into their food memories to put themselves into the dish. He demystifies concepts and ingredients.

Modern Italian cooking taught me that I had the skills to tackle complicated multi-step recipes, that I could take traditional recipes and make them my own (and be less worried about breaking the “rules” of cooking).

Did taking a MasterClass help me become a better cook? Sure, but it also gave me more confidence in the kitchen, and with both of those elements, I can take on more challenging cooking projects.

Both Ramsay and Bottura taught some fundamentals and permitted students to use them as a starting point. Both were nuanced experiences that help instill confidence to put these skills to use in everyday life.

Freelance food and travel writer. home : #upstateny + #intheberkshires] www.stephanita.com for more

Sign up for Heated with Mark Bittman

By Heated

Food from every angle. Take a look.

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.