Like so many food-related businesses, Montclair Culinary Academy had to first pause and then find ways to offer cooking classes and experiences while adhering to COVID-19 restrictions.
At first, it was overwhelming says Chef Karan Fischer.
To share her cooking initially, Fischer helped by making a meal donation to University Hospital workers during the pandemic’s early surge. Then she looked for ways to continue teaching, starting with Zoom initially, offering cooking segments to seniors through Montclair Public Library where she had previously done in person demonstrations, and to other groups looking to bond over a shared, safe, remote event, including corporate team building and birthday parties. Once businesses were allowed to open, she started with private classes for individuals and small family events outdoors.
When summer came, Fischer was able to utilize her large, private outdoor space at her Valley Road location and ran a full nine-week summer camp for kids outdoors (the kids wore masks, washed their hands often and had their own cooking utensils). She does the same with her outdoor events for adults, and the space, strung with party lights and surrounded by huge bushes, easily allows her to socially distance people at their own tables.
This fall, she is continuing her outdoor events, but limiting indoors where she has reduced capacity, to families or people who already exposed to each other, such as a pod.
“I’m finding more people want to get out and are looking for an experience that’s safe,” says Fischer, who has chef night offerings outside under tents with heaters. People can bring a bottle of wine and watch Fischer prepare a meal for them. She has done a steakhouse night with four courses served under the stars, where guest seeing her preparing a farm to table feast with a porterhouse.
A new offering this fall have been after school camps, popular now as many Montclair kids are home all day with remote learning and have few opportunities for in person interaction.
Fischer offers these both indoors and outside, depending on class and the weather; kids who are related are seated together. Masks and social distancing keep everyone safe.
“If we are making Halloween cookies for instance, each child has their own tray,” she says.
The experience has made Fischer think outside of the box when it comes to her business.
“People are comfortable once they are know you are taking safety precautions and know what they can and can’t do,” she says.