AID Culinary Class Stirs a Passion for Cooking

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Crystal proudly displays a dish she learned how to make in a culinary course offered through the Association for persons with Intellectual Disabilities.

A recent course in culinary skills taught six developmentally disabled adults more than just how to cook. The students walked away with a new sense of self-confidence, a new meaning to the word teamwork, and an eagerness to try new things in the kitchen.

The course was offered through the Association for persons with Intellectual Disabilities (AID), in conjunction with VIP Industries. Classes were held once a week for six weeks and taught by Christine Stokes, a college student who works for AID part-time and has a passion for cooking.

"I thought the class was a fantastic idea," Stokes said. "When I was first asked to teach the class I was very excited to start looking up healthy recipes and begin planning the class."

By taking the culinary classes, the VIP employees learned how to prepare meals, clean up properly, and serve others.

"We felt it was important to introduce employees to basic culinary skills so that they can begin taking an active part of their personal food preparation," said Meagan Edmonds, who is the administrator of the class.

One student is eager to try her new skills at home. While she has already been cooking "simple" meals, she is looking forward to cooking healthier.

"My favorite part about the class was learning how to cook the ingredients. I learned how to cook healthy," said Teri Schraeder. "I'd probably do some of these recipes on my own to see how they turn out."

Another student, Crystal Garner, is looking forward to getting more actively involved in her meal preparation at home.

"I have been cooking at the apartments," Crystal said, adding that her support staff has been helping her. "They've been teaching me how to get the ingredients like flour and sugar."

Each student was given a starter kit (which included items such as cutting boards, measuring cups, and spatulas) on the first day of class, which was to be used during the lessons, but then could be taken home once the course was over.

Then before any cooking began, kitchen safety was covered.

"The first day we did safety," Garner said. "We learned how to not cut ourselves, wash your hands, and watch before you burn yourself."

Every class focused on different safety lessons, in addition to skills, such as measuring wet and dry ingredients properly, and how to read and follow recipes, all while learning healthy ways of cooking.

"I enjoyed being able to expose the students and staff to new foods and healthy alternatives like low fat, low sodium chicken broth for soups, and a few new tropical fruits," Stokes said.

In the process, they also learned about teamwork, as the six students worked together to make each recipe.

"My favorite part about the class was having the group learn how to cook, learning how to take care of ourselves, and how to watch what you're doing," Garner said.

And not only did the culinary students learn new skills for the kitchen, the teacher even learned things along the way.

"Trying to coordinate everyone to work together on one recipe was sometimes difficult," Stokes admitted. "This first course involved some trial-and-error. I had to try a couple of different teaching techniques throughout the classes to find one that worked best for the students and me."

But by the end of this first session, the teacher has accumulated new information that she is able to use in her own cooking.

"I'm also taking away a confirmed love of cooking," Stokes said. "This class really instilled my passion for cooking as well as for sharing that passion with others."

In the future, Edmonds hopes to see involvement from a greater range of individuals. Both Garner and Schraeder believe there won't be any problems finding people interested in taking the course. In fact, Garner wants to take more cooking lessons herself.

As for Terry, she is excited to try the new recipes and is telling her friends about the fun she had.

"I would recommend this class to whoever wants to learn how to cook and cook healthy," Terry said. "I'd recommend it to my friends who didn't get a chance."

While the next six-week session isn't planned just yet, many employees have expressed an interest in taking the course.

For more information about the culinary course or other programs offered through AID please contact the office at 573-334-1166 or visit their Web site at www.vipindustries.com/aid.

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