By Lisa Wang
After its first successful run last year, Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) is again offering the Cook Smart Program, a free nine-week hands-on cooking course open by application to all Stanford undergraduate and graduate students. The program currently runs in collaboration with the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation, a U.K.-based charity working toward better food education in schools.
The first of its kind in the nation, the program was awarded a MenuMasters 2016 Best Healthful Innovations award by Nation’s Restaurant News last spring.
The course aims to teach students how to prepare nutritious food and meals from scratch, as well as sharpen basic knife and kitchen skills. The program is headed by David Iott, executive chef and culinary educator at Stanford, and taught by R&DE Stanford dining chefs specifically trained and certified to use celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s recipes and teaching style.
Students have been meeting once a week in the Arrillaga Family Dining Commons since October, learning and making one recipe during each hour-long class. Each week operates under a different theme, such as breakfast, seafood and stir-fry. Each class also comes with a basic nutrition message, such as the importance of breakfast, the health benefits of eating fish and the importance of fruit and vegetables.
But the curriculum does not end at preparing dishes—the Cook Smart Program aims to instill in students awareness of what is going on both inside the kitchen and out.
As such, students learn tenets of food sustainability, such as how they can most sustainably and humanely choose ingredients and recipes. The students and the chefs use produce grown in the organic dining hall gardens and on the O’Donohue Family Stanford Educational Farm.
“We want to use natural ingredients, [and] we want to use fruit that isn’t always perfect,” said current Cook Smart student Allison Tielking ’20.
Although the course is not for credit, students walk away feeling satisfied with the knowledge and skills they’ve learned.
“I learned so many important cooking skills, especially knife skills that I wouldn’t get anywhere else,” said Joshua Cobler ’20. “It’s just really helpful because now I feel like I have a foundation for any cooking I would do in the future.”
Current participants believe that with increased exposure, the course could serve as an enriching yet relaxing experience for Stanford students who may be looking for a more laid-back, unconventional learning opportunity.
“It’s a pretty unknown course, and some people don’t want to take it because it isn’t one unit, but it’s a very good way to decompress,” Tielking said.
This opportunity to try out kitchen skills with the Cook Smart Program excites even those with no previous cooking experience, according to Justin Kang ’20, who is interested in taking the course next quarter.
“This course sounds like a great idea because cooking is really important for your future, and learning to eat and cook in a healthy manner is always helpful,” Kang said. “You always have to start somewhere, and I think that Stanford is being really accommodating; even if you don’t know how to cook at all, they’ll teach you.”
Contact Lisa Wang at lisaw20 ‘at’ stanford.edu.