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Editor’s Note: This story was written by Morgan Prokosch for COM201 Beginning Newswriting.

Saint Mary’s offers monthly cooking classes for students looking to stay healthy and learn
basic cooking skills, said Sarah Nicklay, registered dietitian for Chartwells. Nicklay thinks that
knowing how to cook “is just a good life skill” for students to learn.

In these classes, students are walked through the recipes and taught basic cooking techniques.
Each student makes and prepares their own food. “It’s definitely hands on,” Nicklay said. She
also said that each class revolves around a theme, and the students generally make about three or
four recipes revolving around that theme. Before the students get started on the recipes, Nicklay
said she usually starts with some background information about the theme, such as talking about
the health benefits of the food they will be making and introducing ingredients that students
might be unfamiliar with. After that, the cooking begins.

Natalie Fink, a Saint Mary’s University freshman, attended the October class. During this
class, students went to the farmers market and brought fresh produce back to campus to prepare
roasted vegetables. Fink said she didn’t have too much previous cooking experience, and she was
able to learn a lot from the class. Overall, she really enjoyed her experience and said, “It was a
really fun way to stay healthy and learn about healthy foods and still have fun.”

The themes for these classes vary each time. Other than the farmers market class, Nicklay
said that they once did a Thanksgiving meal where students made “the whole works” including
Thanksgiving staples such as turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. There has also been a
breakfast-themed class, where students made various breakfast items such as omelets, smoothies,
and oatmeal.

Nicklay said that these classes, or teaching kitchens, are part of the Teaching Kitchen
Collaborative, which was started by the Culinary Institute. Nicklay cited the collaborative’s
mission as “advancing personal and public health through culinary literacy and integrative
lifestyle transformation.”

Nicklay thinks that these classes can help students build confidence in the kitchen and
exposes them to cooking, which gives them a foundation to continue to learn more so they can
cook for themselves when they are on their own. “When they were at home, probably their
parents did most of the cooking; when they’re here, they probably come to the cafe for most of
their meals,” she said. “Once they’re out on their own, they’re going to want to eat more than
ramen hopefully.”

On top of the monthly classes in the cafeteria, groups of people can request to do them, such as sports teams or residence halls. Nicklay said that sometimes resident assistants contact her wanting a class and she holds a class right in their hall kitchen.

While the classes used to cost a meal swipe, they are now free for anyone who wants to attend. The dates and times for the teaching kitchens vary. They also happen in different locations in the
cafeteria such as the dining room, faculty and staff dining room, and kitchen, depending on
recipes and participation levels. Students interested in attending one can check the Chartwell’s
newsletter or calendar of the month for dates and themes.

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