At cooking classes at the Thibodaux, La.-based Rouses Markets, customers are taught not only how to cook different recipes, but to cook while incorporating ingredients from Louisiana and Mississippi.
“We have tied in new items and new products as they’ve come into the market, and the big thing is whatever is fresh and in season, locally,” Rouses Marketing and Advertising Director Tim Acosta told SN.
For Rouses, teaching shoppers new meal ideas isn’t considered an extra — the classes are free.
“It’s just a service that we offer to our customers,” he said.
In each class, shoppers receive copies of the recipes, and can taste a sample of the dishes.
A group of special guest chefs from local restaurants come in to teach classes in the Lafayette and Youngsville, La., stores. This month, chefs from Jolie’s Louisiana Bistro and Charley G’s, two fine-dining restaurants in Lafayette, are teaching classes.
This partnership with local restaurants allows cross-promotion between the restaurants and Rouses, and encourages shoppers to support local food and businesses.
In the classes, the chefs get exposure to Rouses’ customers, and then in turn Rouses’ customers learn new ideas and techniques from the chefs, Acosta said.
Rouses’ relationship with local chefs has also been reflected in past television commercials featuring regional chefs, and on the store floor, where the chefs give demos.
In addition to the special guest chef-led classes, Rouses also offers monthly classes that demonstrate new recipes based on the month’s theme.
“The classes right now in February are all tied in to Valentine’s Day,” Acosta said. “You know, romance and your sweetheart and doing everything from [cooking] some different recipes with some seafood, and even showing them how to make their own chocolate dipped strawberries and bananas and cherries and so forth,”
And due to the Valentine’s Day focus, this month is all about chocolate, Acosta said.
“One is a basic ganache recipe that we have, another one is a silky chocolate bread pudding. We have a chocolate peanut butter ganache and we have the chocolate covered fruit assortments.”
Gulf Coast seafood also plays a big role on class menus, especially during Lent and crawfish season.
“March is going to be all about seafood because of the Lenten season,” Acosta said, later noting that there’s a large Catholic population in south Louisiana.
“We’re trying to show them new ideas and new dishes to prepare with the local seafood.”
Rouses gives kids an opportunity to cook, too. “We pick a month, usually in August, and we do like a kid’s theme class as well.”
Acosta said at these fun events, kids from the audience come up to help the chef prepare kid-friendly meals.
While classes focus on every-day dinner meal ideas, Rouses has offered classes that give dinner party menu recommendations and wine pairing suggestions. Wine tasting events are also held separately in the store.
The monthly cooking classes are held among 10 different Rouses’ locations every month. Customers have gotten to know the teacher of these monthly classes, Chef Nino, personally, Acosta said.
In addition to encouraging customers to eat and prepare food, Acosta said the classes are intended to: “Teach people, educate people, get people cooking — showing them how easy and convenient it is. It could be fun, it’s not a chore.”
In their class planning, Rouses makes sure to keep recipes accessible to beginner cooks.
“We try to keep it simple because the classes usually last about an hour to an hour and a half, and so it’s … no real, real fancy dishes but it’s some quick, simple … meal ideas that we teach them.”