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Behind The Scenes with Mentor Annie on our new Essential Cooking Course

Behind The Scenes with Mentor Annie

The new and improved Leiths Online Essential Cooking course, was one year in the making and a huge undertaking for the team. Leiths Online mentor Annie takes us behind the scenes of how we create a Leiths online course.

Firstly, can you tell us why the Essential Cooking course has been refreshed?

“The Essential course was our first foray into online education five years ago. In that time, production has changed; recipes have changed; teaching techniques have all adapted. We wanted the content to be the most up to date that it could be, and we wanted it to reflect any changes that had been made within the main school.

The first iteration of the Essential course was quite different visually to all the rest of the courses. It has music continually through the background and was filmed within one of the kitchens rather than in the tailor made studio we now have for filming. So that in itself is quite different. The course is our bestselling course so needed to be consistent with the rest of our content. Consistency is really important with online education. The original course is still great – you’re still getting taught the same techniques by the same teachers – but it’s like anything, it was time for a refresh. We’ve given all students who’ve done the original course the option to spend a little bit more to have access to the new content.”

“The course now has a much more comprehensive food styling and presentation unit. The flow of the curriculum has changed, based on student feedback. So, where we used to have two units that were cakes back-to-back, we’ve changed that. Originally, we’d looked at it from a teaching perspective – first you learn this, then you learn that – but from the perspective of a student learning at home, seven cakes in the space of two weeks, that’s a lot.”

How did you go about refreshing the course?

“The process was very collaborative from start to finish. Our aim is always to make sure, particularly with the professional courses, that the online course is as reflective as possible of the in-person course. The first port of call was looking through the curriculum. Hannah [one of the head teachers at the school] and I carefully worked through the curriculum, working out what needed to be adapted and tweaked. There were a few tweaks in terms of things that we do a bit differently within the school now that we wanted to make sure we were doing online. It might be not using as much plastic, for example, you might now use something else instead of cling film. Those kinds of nuances. We then rewrote recipes that needed to be written. They were then rigorously recipe-tested by Leiths teachers. That’s the pre-production phase”.

What does the production phase of filming new courses involve?

“Once we’re happy with the recipe and it gets signed off, it goes to Mel, who is head of production, and Natalie, who project manages the entire production. The next phase is, I suppose, the on-the-ground logistics. Before getting the actual content we need from the teachers, there’s obviously the ingredients to be ordered in, the recipes to be weighed out, the props and the styling. It’s a mountain! There’s so much that goes into this kind of planning.”

How many are involved in filming?

“You’re looking at around six people. Natalie; Mel; the teacher who’s delivering the content, a KP (kitchen porter), someone doing dem prep. Dem prep is the preparation before any kind of demonstration, whether it’s a demonstration at school or dem prep for filming. We always have someone in the day before doing dem prep. It’s a very collaborative team effort putting it together”.

How many times do you have to make a recipe when you’re filming?

“We’re quite mindful of waste. We’ll always have a back-up, but it’s quite dependent on the recipe. If you’re doing pastry, for example, you have to have things done for each stage of the process; you might have it chilled and ready to roll out. We have a back-up in case something goes really wrong but otherwise we use what we cook on the day for photography as well.  You try to keep it looking really nice and fresh but if something suddenly starts wilting, or looking a bit sad, that’s when we might have to whip another one up.”

What are the challenges?

“Like anything when you’re filming, things can go wrong. We know that 99% of the time the recipes work, but sometimes it can be a really hot day or the studio kitchen gets hot because of the lights; things like that can affect the result. Sometimes the time it takes to get through a recipe is not as quick as you think. We tend to do one to two recipes a day but sometimes we’ll do three or four in a day if it’s something like the egg unit.”

What happens after filming?

“The post-production is all done in-house. The editing is done by Mel, who is very talented. Our photography is done by Natalie, who is also featured in Unit 6 of the course. During post-production, all the footage is proofed which involves uploading hundreds of videos, the recipes and ensuring the summaries you read are accurate. This is proofed a third time by another member of the team, Heli, who is triple checking everything. We have a test cohort to undertake the course a few months before launching it to the public. That gives us a few weeks’ wiggle room if there are tech issues or tweaks to be made. The process we have in place is years in the making; we're always looking to improve on our efficiency. We have an incredible team who have spent the year building this course and we can absolutely say that it is our best one yet."

If your interested in booking onto the Essential Cooking online course, read more here.

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