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Postcards From The Pandemic: Chef Teaches Cuisine On A Computer Screen

People looking for something to do while they stay home and practice social distancing can turn to a new viral trend — cooking lessons on social media.

Natalie Blake, executive chef at the Metropolitan at the 9 in Downtown Cleveland, started a Facebook Live show she calls 'Cook-A-Long with Chef Natalie,' teaching followers on her Facebook page to cook a gourmet meal.

Unlike watching a cooking show on television, Blake interacts with people watching her live streams. As her boyfriend Ryan Gilkerson mans the camera and reads the Facebook comments, Blake answers viewer questions about her recipes and cooking techniques.

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Blake interacts with viewers ask they ask for tips on their own dishes. [Ryan Gilkerson]

"It actually just really surprised me how involved people were getting, really from the get-go," Blake said. "I'm getting comments. I'm getting asked questions. People are posting pictures of their dishes and really looking forward to it."

Blake has cooked a number of recipes on her cook-a-long including risotto, fried rice, and coq au vin. She also takes dish suggestions from viewers.

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Passing The Time

You're stuck at home. I just started thinking about, how do you fill that space?

I was like, let me just help out. The only way I can think to contribute is through food and showing people how to make food, not only providing some entertainment to kind of pass a couple hours in people's days, but to give them an opportunity to try something new, learn something new and in the meantime feed their families.

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On Monday, Blake made shrimp and cheesy grits with bourbon sausage sauce. [Natalie Blake]

How It Works

I've been doing cook-a-longs two times per week. I walk you step-by-step through a gourmet dish that you can make with your family.

I'm also trying to use ingredients that I would think mostly people would have in their pantries. I provide a lot of substitution ideas. 

I post ingredients a few days before the cook-a-long so that people have a chance to gather everything. 

I'm really trying to make it as easy as possible, not overly complicated; easy stuff that kids can get involved in, but also teaching some basic techniques and skills that maybe some people normally know otherwise. 

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Blake served her prime rib with smoky paprika green beans, cauliflower steaks, truffle honey polenta and horseradish cream. [Natalie Blake]

Giving to Charity

I give people an opportunity to 'Tip the Chef,' and we've donated to a couple really awesome organizations that are setting up crisis funds.

So all the way around people have just impressed me with their generosity and their kindness and their excitement to try something new. 

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Blake prepares several 'cook-a-long' shows per week after her work day. [Metropolitan at the 9]

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