The coronavirus pandemic hit the restaurant industry particularly hard in New York City, and because of the devastation many Brooklyn chefs and restaurant-owners are looking for innovative ways to tackle the industry

Meanwhile, many folks with more time to spend in their kitchens have been trying their hand at new recipes, and many are on the hunt for the perfect dessert to satisfy their sweet tooth.

Virtual cooking class platforms, such as CocuSocial, have been a bridge between the two groups, supporting chefs and giving access to those wanting to upskill in the kitchen.

Founder of Brooklyn’s own pastry company Sugar, Butter, Chocolate and Michelin-starred pastry Chef Daniel Kleinhandler is now one of CocuSocial’s Master Series chefs working to debunk the art of visually stunning dessert plates.

Brooklyn Chef Daniel Kleinhandler debunks the art of the perfect desserts.

“The whole world of food has changed–from restaurants being shut down or partially shut down, to wholesale purveyors selling directly to consumers,” Kleinhandler said.

“People are thinking about how they eat very differently.  With people eating more at home and having access to more restaurant ingredients, cooking classes are a way for people to access the food they miss from restaurants and to empower themselves to have more confidence in the kitchen.”

After working 70 hour weeks for years, Kleinhandler was drawn back to teaching in quarantine because, he said, chefs often only had the opportunity to teach and grow from fellow staff mates. While social distancing regulations got him out of the kitchen, Kleinhandler quickly turned his lack of mobility into a great opportunity, teaching other cooks and sharing his food knowledge and history.

“I love to teach people to make items that seem scary but are actually approachable,” Kleinhandler said. “The other types of things. I really enjoy teaching tiny tricks or techniques that they can use on a daily basis, from how to hold a knife, properly flour a table or to zest a lemon.”

One of Chef Daniel Kleinhandler creations. Photo: Instagram.

In addition to his return to teaching, quarantine has also allowed Kleinhandler to grow his pastry business after over a decade of working in other chefs’ restaurants. After planning to leave his job for years, Kleinhandler used the time at home to launch pastry company Sugar, Butter, Chocolate.

Launching a cooking business from home could be a daunting task, but Kleinhandler said: “Flexibility is the key, being locked into one way of thinking will sink you.”

“We are planning on growing our direct to consumer including custom cakes, chocolate and candy items along with other products,” he said, adding he would also increase wholesale clients as restaurants opened back up without the budgets to have full-time pastry chefs.

On September 13, Kleinhandler will be teaching a virtual course on how to bake a dark chocolate souffle and no-churn vanilla ice cream. The class will offer students the chance to talk with and learn from the chef from the comfort of their home.

The course is part of CocuSocial’s new Master Series, which allows people to cook and write new recipes from home with the help of affordable classes taught by world-renowned chefs and mixologists. For more information or sign up for a class visit the site here.

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Kimberlean Donis

Kimberlean Donis is a journalist based in Brooklyn. She is a student at Williams College majoring in Political Science and Art History.

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