Welcome to the land of smiles!
So, what should one consider when selecting a Thai cooking school?
Let me start by saying when I did my first Thailand cooking school research I found none of the cooking school websites complete in their information. To know their whole storey, like how much or what dishes, I had to phone each school. Nearly every call was answered in their limited second language English which left me unsure of their understanding my question or if their answers actually answered my question as the answers were often obscure or incomplete.
Information like price should be on the website if it’s not why is it a secret? I can tell you why, it's because some customer referrers won't send students to the schools whose website shows prices as they are uneasy about scalping posted school fees. And why are the dishes taught a secret?
So here's 8 school qualifying questions for you to ask your next prospective culinary school prospects.
1. Does the school website answer all your questions or does it leave you with unanswered questions ... There's a reason for nondisclosure ... and I'm positive it's not that they don't know what they charge or what they teach ...
2. Location: is important even if you are not coming through Bangkok you can still apply this check list to your Thai cooking school selection research. There are reputable cooking schools in every major center. Some schools have small storefront schools to leave you with the impression of small classes but these store fronts are used as student pick-up centers from where you will be delivered to a large class comprised of many store front pick-ups.
3. Teacher experience: A true answer to this question may be impossible to obtain. But again I ask why is it not post it to their website? Where did the teacher train or they simply able to cook and speak basic English?
4. Teacher qualification: As in question 2 a true answer to this question would likely be an exception. Most of the teachers will not have degrees or certificates of culinary study nor will they have a Thai Dept. of Skills level 1 or higher diploma.
5. Teacher Style: Ask if they teach "the craft", the technique to Thai cuisine as many schools instruct their teacher not to take the time to impart this to you as it is time consuming.
6. The School: Remember ... Thailands’ temperatures will be between 30 and 40 degrees celcius and if you are in some alley school in the open air and you fire up the gas burners you can bet you're gonna sweat! A climate controlled school costs more to operate and as a result will cost more for a class but provides for clean cool air during your class. One outdoor school was simply a private residence porch bar-be-que used as a school! Do you really want to sit on the floor, Thai style, to prepare your ingredients? Why not use a table and chair? Do they overbook? If so, will you actually cook or be like in the audience and watch while others cook?
7. Price: Costs are important and no one likes to be taken! My research found rates as high as 1,000 baht per dish with the lowest being 800 per set of 5 dishes in an outdoor setting with the average price being near 300 baht per dish and air con schools averaging 400 per dish or 2,400 baht for 6 dishes.
8. Notoriety: Some schools are all about their dog and pony shows, dressed in Thai formal wear they dance and sing and rhyme to and with you. One such world famous school teaches only one set of Thai dishes. Does this say they believe you will not be back and that makes the tourist show more important than the paid for cooking lesson?
One School that passed this check list with flying colors (8/8) was Ma-Sa-Man Cooking School & Bakery in Bangkok. Their Temporary from Thailand viewable website is http://www.ma-sa-man.com
So now you can go into your next culinary class knowing what you will be getting from the class and take home a piece of Thai culture to share with your world of friends.