I’ve Been Taking Airbnb’s Virtual Cooking Classes with Family Members Around the World — and They’re So Much Better Than Online Happy Hour

updated Jul 21, 2020
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Just a few weeks before we went on lockdown in April, I spent an evening in Vienna learning to make apricot dumplings with Beatrix. A few months prior to that, I was tossing around a cocktail shaker filled with heady gin concoctions with a professional bartender in Bath, England. I have also rolled fresh mochi in Japan and whipped up a batch of japchae noodles in South Korea. Thanks to Airbnb Experiences, taking a cooking class in a new country is probably my favorite way to bypass touristy food traps while immersing in the local culture. But with most international travel plans shelved for the rest of the year, whatever new experiences we’re having in 2020 are all happening online. Which is why I was thrilled to learn that Airbnb is now offering their immensely popular experiences on the web, including a slew of live cooking classes hosted by international food experts.

I obviously signed up STAT and roped in my parents from Mumbai, my grandparents from Pune, an aunt and uncle from Toronto, and a cousin who’s up in Boston, for the Kenyan home cooking class hosted by Josephine from Nairobi. At the start of the class, we were sent a list of basic ingredients and tools we would need, along with a Zoom link to join the call. Sure, nothing beats the charm of interacting with your host in-person, but surprisingly doing it over Zoom was pretty great too. Josephine, our host, put in a tremendous amount of effort to keep the session engaging, fun and informative for every single person on the call, including my 85-year-old grandfather who’s hard of hearing. Over the course of 90 minutes, we mastered three authentic Kenyan dishes — curry, ugali and chapati — while also learning a little bit about the local flavors and ingredients that are staples in everyday Kenyan cuisine.

Credit: Airbnb
Kenyan home cooking from Josephine's family kitchen!

But the best part was getting to spend uninterrupted quality time with family members from around the world. We regularly catch up over video calls, but sharing a new food culture with my loved ones was way more rewarding. (Sure beats those calls where someone is almost always secretly watching a TV show while carrying on a distracted conversation!) In fact, I had such a blast during my first virtual cooking class that currently I have a long list of classes bookmarked (Boring Indian Curry Workshop, Easy Balinese Indonesian Home Cooking, Dancing on the Dough: Ramen in Japan, to name a few!) and have even enlisted friends and family members that I miss seeing in-person to join in.

Airbnb is also constantly adding new online experiences every couple of days, which keeps the inventory fresh and exciting. Plus, if you’re booking a group session, most hosts are happy to schedule a time that suits your group’s time zones, so there’s that added flexibility.

And while I always found Airbnb’s food-related experiences to be relatively affordable, the prices are currently even cheaper for virtual ones (almost all classes are under $30!), so there’s truly no guilt, if, like me, you’re looking for alternate ways to virtually connect with loved ones beyond video calls and online happy hours, learn a new kitchen skill or two, or even set up a socially distant event to celebrate a special occasion. And forget the hassle of remembering to pack your passport — all you need to do is double-check your internet connection, grab your laptop and you’re ready to go!