Liverpool Sikh Society shares the perfect recipe for a mix of volunteering, fun and learning in their Cooking Masterclass!
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Type of Event
Number of weeks preparation time needed?
5 weeks preparation time needed – most important thing is to find the space to use for the cooking. For us that was the university guild and it was important that we booked the room well in advance otherwise other student societies also could have booked it on the date we wanted
Number of committee members needed?
In the run up, it would be wise to have two committee members on board but on the day, you will need you full committee (around 4-5 people helping at least)
Any help from outside organisations needed?
- Needed to liaise with the university guild to book the cooking room. Also needed to fill out a risk assessment form. The Guild also required someone with a Food health and safety certificate. For this I needed to complete an online course at the cost of £17 which was valid for the entire year.
- Liaised with the outside charity. We worked with the Whitechapel centre who had a kitchen where they distributed food to the homeless. We had to notify them that we would be coming with food that we had prepared, so they could let the staff on duty know.
Stepwise guide to preparation in the run up to the event
We had organised similar events beforehand. The first was an Indian themed event, the second an Italian theme and the third Mexican theme. In the past we had struggled to find space for cooking the food (eventually we managed to find a space at our university guild), we also found it difficult to make the food in the allocated two hours we managed to get and finally we didn’t manage to get many people coming to our event to help. This was at the forefront of our minds when we were organising the event. I will outline how we overcame these problems later. However, I first want to give you some food for thought about what you need to consider for your own cooking event.
1. Who are you cooking for? –
We wanted to cook for a charity which cooked for the homeless. However, you may want to cook for the homeless and set up a stall in your city such as organisation such as Midlands Langar Sewa Society. You may want to do a langar on campus event and so on and so forth. It’s important to think about this first as I believe the rest of the event and how you organise it will depend on this.
2. Where are you going to cook? What are you going to cook with? –
This is another big one. Whether you’re going to do it at someone’s house, at your uni guild, at the Gurdwara or wherever you need to make sure you have the appropriate facilities to prepare and cook the food. You also need to make sure you have the correct utensils. When cooking for many people you may need larger pans such as the one’s used to prepare langar at the Gurdwara.
3. What are you going to cook and who will cook it? –
This is not to be overlooked. You will need someone to take lead on this. Really you can cook whatever you want (although in accordance with Sikh principles we felt it should be vegetarian and not contain any eggs) if you know how to make it. We had different themes as a way of giving the event variety and so it would appeal to different groups of people. Furthermore, you have a duty to prepare it in a hygienic manor and to store it appropriately to make sure it is safe to eat. Our student guild made me take a course in food hygiene which I was given a certificate for which registered me for a year as a food hygiene instructor.
4. What ingredients will you need and how will you pay for them? -
The ingredients you will need will clearly depend on what you are going to make but we found that it also depended on our budget. Obviously, you cannot put a price in Sewa and the committee often put their own money in. However, we felt that this wouldn’t be sustainable for every event as our committee were just students. We also didn’t want to use too much of the money in our guild account as we felt we had an obligation to our members and the next committee not to spend all the money leaving none for the future and for other events. As a result, we decided to fundraise for this event. We were amazed at the generosity of people. Our fundraising was simple, we had a donation bucket at one event and asked for donations. We managed to raise over £30 which for this event was plenty of money.
Once you decided what you want to make it’s important to set a budget. This can be based on how much you have fundraised, how much money you have in your guild account and how much you are willing to spend. Vegetarian ingredients are relatively cheap so around £30-£40 will be plenty and give you enough to cater for over 50 people if you spend your money wisely.
5. What kind of event do you want to run? -
This will be heavily influenced by who you are cooking for but is still flexible and there is a lot of room to be creative. We wanted an event that got people together to cook the food, but we also wanted to engage them by running a cooking masterclass and by having cooking challenges. There are so many events that you could run and limitless ways that you could run the event. In this document I will focus mainly on how we ran our event but also try to give general advice which could be used to help run any event.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
This is a very important point. There may well be a chance that for some reason you can’t organise one of the above by yourself and need some help. It’s perfectly reasonable to do that. There are so many organisations such as BOSS (and loads more who they can put you in touch with) and members of the Sikh community that
would be happy to help anyway possible. Use your resources the resources available because they are vast and can be of so much help.
7. Final prep:
- Make sure you have brought all the ingredients and you’ve managed to keep it within budget. This is best done the night before or as near to the event as possible, so the food doesn’t go off. Also make sure you have somewhere to store it.
- Be organised. Make sure you’ve confirmed where you’re going to do the cooking and make sure you have everything needed to do so. Also make sure you have sorted out when and where you’re going to distribute the food. If you’re doing it on campus make sure you’ve liaised with your university’s guild they sometimes have some rules on handing out and preparing food.
- Go through your plan for the day. Who is going to do what? Some people will be needed to cook. Some will need to transport the food. Others may need to coordinate with members or the organisations you’re working with. It’s easy to think that these things will take care of themselves, but it will help the day entire day run much more smoothly.
- Make sure you’ve advertised the event and publicised it. This is something I will go into more later. It’s important you make clear what you’re doing and why it’s relevant to them.
- An innovative idea to help get volunteers is to let other societies that may be interested in the event know what you’re doing. There are many societies that would love to help. We were in contact with Help the Homeless Society which was run by uni students and they were more than happy to come down on the day of the event and got passionate about what we were doing to the extent that they asked us to help them with some similar projects they were working on.
Guide to running the event on the day
- The night before making sure you have checked that you have everything that you need and that everyone from the committee knows when to arrive and what they are doing when they get there.
- On arrival make sure the room is set out as you want it to be–do you need the tables and chairs in an order?
- Arrange the food out as well as the pots and pans. You may want to start getting them heated when you arrive and put some ingredients in that may take a long time to cook.
- Have someone in your committee ready to guide people to the event when they arrive and to welcome them.
- Make sure there is something for people to do on arrival whether this is copping things or helping organise things – it’s good to engage people and get them feeling involved.
- Set a time when the event will start and stick to it. So many events have poor timing and it creates a bad impression. People don’t want to be at an unorganised event that runs on for too long. Keep it on time and not too long.
- Start the masterclass early and give an introduction speech about what the event will entail and the charity/cause you are doing it for.
- Begin a cooking workshop or challenge – in the past we had a pani puri making competition in which each team was given random ingredients some of which were the correct ones and allowed 10 minutes to make their own version which was then judged. We also had a nacho making competition in which teams were again given ingredients and told to make their take on nachos – some added salsa and other ingredients to theirs. Other potential ideas = somosa making or spring roll making competition
- Once the workshop/challenge is complete bring everyone back for the main recipe and show that to completion.
- Finishing remarks and hand out any prizes you have. We also had a collection bucket to raise money for the charity after.
- Deliver the food to the distribution point – you will need to think ahead and arrange transport for the food and give time to let the pans cool down otherwise you may damage someone’s car.
What could you have improved upon and what would you do differently if you ran the event again?
This event proved much more popular than we expected, and we needed more chopping boards etc to keep up with the demand of people we had. We made recipe cards which were popular, and we also made a video of the recipe masterclass which created a lot of buzz. Not only did it promote the event to those in Liverpool but to people up and down the country that had seen it on Facebook. If you can I would encourage this as it will give that extra special touch to the event.
Make sure that everyone is clear about their jobs and what they are doing. The first couple of times we ran this event we didn’t have a clear framework and it made it much harder to run and much less slick than we would have liked. Obviously, there is an element of a learning curve when running these kinds of events so if it doesn’t go exactly as planned don’t get disheartened but try to reflect on what could have gone better and improve upon it for next time to make the event stronger and stronger.
What are your top tips and take-home messages?
Some extra suggestions:
- Recipe cards with the instructions of how to cook the dish you’re preparing.
- Have someone from a charity come to talk about the work they do and the impact the volunteering work has. This helps put into context what you’re doing and the impact it has.
- You can buy some stuff like cake or drinks to sell at the event to raise money for charity.
- Try to involve people as much as possible and make them feel welcome. It’s always important your committee try to talk to and engage with all the volunteers that come. It sounds obvious but often the committee neglect this part of the event (it goes for any event) but goes a long way in making people feel part of the society and will make them more likely to come to future events. Even hand out sticky labels which people can use as name tags to help familiarise everyone with each other.
The main thing for this event is preparation. Have a clear idea of what you want to achieve and plan, plan, plan. Plan what food you want to prepare and how much of each ingredient you’re going to need. Think about where the event is going to be and what you are going to need on the day to achieve your goal. Organise with the charity when you are going to drop it off and with what transport. Have each committee member briefed on the event at least a week in advance so they can promote it and nearer the time (before the day of the event) tell them exactly what they are doing and make sure everyone is clear on their job. You’ll need someone to manage everyone on the day so allocate an event leader (this need not be the president, but the best person would be the one who has organised the event).
This was a massively enjoyable and rewarding event and hopefully it can be for you as well. What I’ve suggested here is a brief guide based on my experience but feel free to make it your own and put your own touches on it.