When people start talking about why they don’t eat healthy, often times the perceived barrier “I can’t cook” comes up. Maybe they don’t know how to cook, but they can learn, and in Morgantown, Chef Chris Hall offers a variety of classes that are designed to “provide a fun learning environment to enhance culinary skills.” His business, My Kitchen, offers many cooking classes in the evenings. The classes include Indian Cuisine, Asian Cooking, Mediterranean Dishes, South Italian Cooking, Grilling Class, Sushi, Cooking with Superfoods, Soups, Tex-Mex, Sauces, Kids in the Kitchen, Garden Vegetables, and Fish. The class that Mary and I attended for observation was Light, Fast, & Delicious- a class that used fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean meats to create 8 or so dishes that were light in calories and fat, quick to prepare, and obviously delicious.
Chef Chris Hall (with a culinary arts degree, & a resume that includes being a private chef, working for many restaurants, and teaching adult community education classes) started off the evening class by going over the recipes that each of the 7 attendees got a copy of. Each of these he had created- a green chili chicken sauce, a fruit smoothie, Pork Diane, Chicken Marsala, fish entrée, chicken noodle soup, and a shrimp jambalaya. He has a very hands-on approach, and encourages each student to make the recipes themselves, while he jumps in with tips and answers any questions that come up. In the hour and a half I was there, he taught us how to cut an onion properly (and reduce the tearing effect onions cause), a trick to peeling a garlic clove, the 101 of sharpening knives, the difference between chicken stock and chicken broth, and how to cook the perfect pot of rice.
Chris’s classes are flexible and can be shaped and designed around what you would like to learn. Chris said that he had a student contact him before a class and tell him he really wanted to learn how to make tiramisu. Chris worked that recipe into the class, even when the recipe didn’t fit with the specific theme. Another time, the students wanted to watch Chris cook, and just eat the food rather than cook it themselves— he was willing to do that too.
The kitchen itself is pretty cool. The MyKitchen classes are held in a licenced commercial kitchen that Chris had attached to his home. The fully-stocked kitchen has a hand washing station, plenty of counter space, and stools and a table to sit at. There are plenty of pictures on his website, so check them out here!
Whether you’d like to learn how to cook in the privacy of your own home, with a bunch of friends, or whether you’d like to go to one of the MyKitchen evening cooking classes, you are bound to learn something whether you are a novice or a more experienced cook.
In short, it can be pretty easy for some dietitians to consult with a patient and tell them they need to quit the fast food and start eating whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy, and fruits and vegetables. But oftentimes making the leap from eating out all the time to cooking at home can be daunting and unfamiliar. People have to learn how to cook before they can start eating healthy home-cooked meals! This is where professional relationships between Dietitians and chefs come in handy, as RDs can refer patients to chefs that offer skill-building classes in the community.
And it’s not just patients or clients that would benefit from cooking classes. Even those that study nutrition need a helping hand once in a while! I was a Teaching Assistant for 2 cooking labs this past year– Science of Food Preparation and Cross-Cultural Dietary Patterns. These were upper-level nutrition students, and I was surprised at how little some of them knew about basic cooking skills. I had students not recognize the difference between a cucumber and a zucchini, not know how to cook rice, properly measure ingredients, and not know what “broil” means. Obviously there is a need to increase the cooking skills and confidence level of nutrition students and the general public alike. I think it’s pretty great that MyKitchen offers those skills to the residents of Morgantown in such a fun and interactive way, so if you’re ever looking for a fun way to spend your evening in Morgantown, whether you are a nutrition professional or a newbie to the world of cooking, I think it’s worth your time to check out MyKitchen.