Local

Chef explains why 'cooking matters'

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Some local residents are getting the opportunity to brush up on their cooking skills with hands-on help from a professional chef -- and it's all for free.

The program starts with hard facts about food safety, budgeting and nutrition. At Winfield Moody - Near North Health Center, participants can take a six-week course called Cooking Matters to learn how to make healthy choices and cook healthy foods.

"I have a very small selection of how I cook my vegetables and I want to expand that," Latrice Wilson, participant, said.

"I am taking this class because of my mom. My mom is diabetic and also she has high cholesterol, just health issue and that's why I came here," Tania Razmgar, participant, said.

Most of those who enroll are low-income patients who receive their health services there.

"Through the class, what we are trying to do is link the recommendations that patients are listening from their doctors or in the media with real life experience," Gloris Synos Taylor, nutritionist, said.

As part of the real life experience, the class offers hands-on help from a gourmet chef. Chef Michael Anthony Harris, a private chef with Arch Angel Chef Services, teaches how to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into the family diet -- even when you're on a tight budget or are working around health challenges.

"A lot of time they get money once a month and to show them how much they can save by just changing what they do or changing their technique because in most cases food isn't bad, it's the technique you use to prepare it," Chef Harris said. "Even our cake recipes, our muffin recipes, we cut the sugar or we use healthy sugar."

Chef Harris has volunteered with the program for four years. He says giving back to his community is its own reward.

"I've done the hard work going to college as a chef and work my way up and just to give somebody that for free to actually help their lives and help their families, it's a blessing to me," Chef Harris said.

Cooking Matters is a partnership with Share Our Strength and the Con Agra Foundation. The goal is to use volunteers in the community to increase health literacy among people who are at the greatest risk of hunger. There are also classes for teens and children. Learn more about the program at nearnorthhealth.org.

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