AS THE LIST of cooking classes grows each year, confusion about which class is best suited to an individual's needs grows with it. Participation vs. demonstration, finding a good teacher and determining a reasonable price are the major considerations of the interested student.
"There are two types of classes to consider when selecting a cooking class," says Ann Byrd, president of the International Association of Cooking Schools. Demonstration and participation. "There is value in both," she stresses.
"Participation is very effective when it involves feel," she says. "For things like pastries, breads, pastas, particularly for the inexperienced, participation classes are invaluable." However, due to time constraints, individuals are only able to focus on one part of the process, so if general cooking information is what the consumer is after, demonstration classes can also be "extremely valuable," she adds.
"First and foremost, look for someone who is a master of good techniques," stresses James Beard, world-renowned cookbook author and cooking instructor. "Technique is the most important thing, everything else is secondary. If students are advanced, they should look for someone with a sense of improvisation, someone with a dependence upon an accident. So if he goes to the cupboard and finds two ingredients missing it should not deter him from cooking."
Demonstration classes, Beard says, do not give the student the most value for his dollars. "I don't think you ever learn anything by watching somebody else do something. It's like going to a matinee," he chuckles, adding that he encourages his students to wander around the classroom and participate in all aspects of the lesson.
But all the responsibility does not lie in the lap of the instructor. Students should be aware of their own cooking levels, Byrd says. "There is nothing wrong with learning how to make a hollandaise. And if weekend dinner parties on Saturday night are your concern, then stay away from esoteric areas."
Students should have an acquaintance with the cuisine before going into the class, Beard says. "You can't go into a class with a Chinese background and expect to understand the French cuisine. You have to know if it fits into your plan," he explains.
Price, Byrd adds, is relative. "It's hard to say what is a good price." Students should consider whether they are going to get to eat the food, whether the instructor has been brought from out of town and if the instructor has a highly respected name. "Name is certainly merited," she says. "Someone who has a famous name must certainly have done something to deserve it. So if you take a class from a well-known person from out of town and are going to eat the food, it should cost more." But for classes with a local teacher, $15 is a good value. "That way you know you are paying for good solid teaching and food."
With those few basic guidelines to keep in mind, here is this year's list of cooking classes. The categories are in alphabetical order, with the community centers and colleges listed together. There are classes for beginners, children, singles and couples, on everything from vegetarian cooking to basic bread baking to wine.
When possible, we have included the course title, time, date, area located, telephone number and fee. There is not enough space to list every detail, so telephone inquiries will be necessary. This is the only extensive guide to cooking classes The Washington Post will publish in 1982-83, so those who think they're interested in attending a class in the winter or spring should cut out this list and save it.
The information was provided by the teachers. Due to the large number of schools and classes, the Food section has not been able to visit them all and, therefore, offers no recommendations. When the information was available, we have indicated the number of years a teacher has given the class.
Readers interested in attending cooking schools outside the Washington area are advised to write the Washington-based International Association of Cooking Schools, 1001 Connecticut Ave. NW., Washington D.C. 20036. Be sure to specify the region of interest and include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. The association has more than 650 member schools in the United States, Mexico, France, Australia, Germany, England and Spain.