Cooking benefits all classes, especially melee and hunters (it is a free source of food). Until higher levels, the benefits it provides are almost exclusively stamina buffs. While more stamina is always nice, cooking is not essential to leveling. Considering the time investment required, if you pick up skinning then cooking would absolutely be a wise skill to level prior to hitting your level cap, as beasts often drop meat useful for skilling up.
Anyway, there are no more shortcuts. There are no more "Tricks". It's just straight questing now since Blizzard nerfed other methods of leveling. You can still do dungeon spam, it just won't be as fast. You can still do BGs, it just won't be as fast. Just about the only alternative way to level that rivals questing is Pet Battles(which makes ZERO sense).
I've used WoW-Pro for years and in WoD, Legion and now BfA it's been awesome for just going on auto-pilot and working your way through a zone. It has 3 levels of depth you can set, so you can set it to just do 1) the main story, main points of interest and rare mobs and treasure that aren't far off the beaten path; 2) every quest with a more thorough dive into the side stuff; 3) absolutely everything.