I love cooking special occasion menus. Whether it is a family dinner, a gathering of friends, or a more elevated experience like a holiday meal, special menus speak to me, and executing them with grace and skill has become a passion of mine. As a self-taught home cook, I have spent the better part of twenty years learning the dance of cooking a menu, and now I want to share it with you.
While the world is full of cooking videos, I haven’t found a place where we learn how to cook a menu, particularly the kind of menu that is categorized as special. Cooking a menu is more than just stringing multiple recipes together. It’s a dance, and it takes practice. I think it helps to see this skill in action in order to learn the little steps that make everything work, and while I could write out the steps for you, I think it is more effective to demonstrate the dance so you can see the steps in real time.
In today’s post I am trying something new. I have created a video episode of me, in my home kitchen, showing you how all the pieces of creating a special menu work together.
Whereas cooking tutorials focus on the details of one recipe, this video is different. You will see me cooking, but the focus is on the larger context of executing the entire menu from start to finish. I will walk through how I create a prep schedule, how I spread the work of a special menu out over a couple of days, and how I aim to create space to show up well for my people in the process. My dog Henry will also make a few guest appearances.
For this first episode, I am cooking a special back-to-school menu. The idea is to gather my family and celebrate the beginning of a new school year together at the table. I know the First Day of School is not considered a special event in everyone’s home, but in ours, we treat it like a holiday, making it a point to eat a special dinner together as a family. The menu includes Crispy Chicken, Macaroni and Cheese, Roasted Broccoli, and Ice Cream Sandwiches.
My hope is that you might want to cook this exact menu, and if so, the recipes are linked above and the prep schedule is below. But you might also be interested in simply seeing the way different dishes can be prepared in a way that allows them all to be ready at the same time without chaos or stress. Either way, I hope this video will inspire you and help illuminate an approach to executing a menu that has served me well for many years.
In the video, you will hear me reference a three-day prep schedule. Here are the details of that schedule:
As a final note, I like to learn new things by just jumping in and going for it. As comfortable as I feel with the subject matter of this video, I am not a professional film maker. Camera angles, lighting, and editing are skills I am still learning, and this video is a beginner’s attempt to create something new. Honestly, I learned a lot as I made this episode, and I look forward to putting that knowledge to use in future episodes. Thank you for watching kind eyes. I hope you enjoy Let’s Learn A Back-To-School Menu!