If university students don’t choose to do their own cooking, they’ll probably end up eating fast food most of the time, says a Toronto cooking school owner and teacher.
So 10 years ago, Bonnie Stern offered a basic course on cooking 101 at her school, and she says it has become a regular offering at the end of summer.
“I did it because my regular students asked for it,” says Stern. “They would say, ‘My kids are going to university and it would be good to learn how to cook because it’s hard for them to learn from their mothers.”‘
The class is only three hours long, but a lot is crammed in, such as showing the students how to roast a chicken or whip up a salad dressing.
“At the end I give them a list of what they can do with the leftovers from the chicken,” she explains. “We also do quesadillas and guacamole because they can make it into a meal or a snack.”
Stern encourages follow-up questions from students, which she handles by phone or email.
She says that despite the fact that kids know so much about food these days, some still don’t enjoy cooking.
“They watch the Food Network, they eat in restaurants, they are trying more exotic foods than their parents ever did, yet they say they don’t want to cook because they are too busy,” says Stern.
She tried to tackle this reluctance by suggesting simpler recipes because she says it’s hard for some people, including adults, to find the recipe that suits their time, equipment and their knowledge.
“I tell them you do have to read a recipe through before you begin,” she says. “If you don’t think before you start cooking it makes it harder on you. It takes some careful planning.”
Stern impresses on her young students that cooking is very relaxing “if they allow it to be.”
“Cooking is very social, and you end up meeting interesting people while preparing food. And even if you are doing the cooking in the house you are sharing with several other students, people love to help and think you are this genius and those around you will want to start cooking as well.”
Stern gives the students a lot of notes about equipment, food shopping and techniques.
“For example, they don’t need to buy expensive kitchen gadgets. They need a skillet, a pot and other basic equipment they can find at garage sales and dollar stores.”
Stern says that the whole food business has changed dramatically and it is entirely different from the Julia Child era when fine cuisine was a womanly art and a requirement.
“That’s the thing about the current movie ‘Julie and Julia,”‘ she says. “It was so different than when Child went into cooking.”
The smash hit movie intertwines the lives of two women who though separated through time and space, are both at loose ends until they discover that with the right combination of passion, fearlessness and the mutual love for butter, the impossible is possible.
“To Julia Child it was for the sheer joy and love of cooking. By the time the blogger Julie Powell went into it there had to be fame in the back of her mind,” says Stern.
– The Canadian Press