Tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve been the Executive Chef for the Detroit Lions for the past 10 years. I was born and raised in Detroit. I moved back here from California because I wanted to be a part of the resurgence and revitalization of the city.
Why did you decide to become a chef?
I got interested in cooking at a really young age. My family is Lebanese and Italian, and my grandparents always had a huge garden when I was growing up. They canned and preserved a lot of the home grown produce because money was super tight. I did a lot of the work beside my grandma in the kitchen, and was naturally drawn to it. Gardening, canning, and pickling are fun and really popular right now, but back then they did it out of necessity. It’s cool to see that those activities have come full circle.
How did you connect with Cooking Matters?
I heard about it through the American Culinary Federation. I had been looking for some way to give back and address hunger issues in the community. Cooking Matters sounded great, and I loved the educational aspect. It’s a powerful thing to teach skills that will help people help themselves. There were times when my family was food insecure growing up, but because the adults in my life had a basic level of understanding of food preparation and preservation they were able to really stretch our food dollars. These days, not everyone has that basic knowledge, or think that they don’t have the time or money to cook healthy meals. Cooking Matters is changing that.
What is your favorite thing about volunteering?
A couple of classes into each series, the participants start telling you about the changes they are making at home, and how they are already seeing the benefits. I especially like working with teens because they are forming habits and learning skills that they will use for the rest of their lives. As a chef, it’s amazing to see people get excited about cooking. Our pace of life doesn’t lend itself to thinking about what we cook and eat, or the ramifications. I’ve also really enjoyed some of the teens tell me that after taking Cooking Matters, that they want to become a chef.
What is your favorite holiday food?
I love pumpkin pie. My birthday is in November, and I almost always have it instead of birthday cake.
Do you have a recipe that you would like to share?
High Protein Fall Harvest Quinoa and Lentil Salad
Ingredients: 1 1/2 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cup lentils
5 cups water
6 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup corn off the cob
1/2 cup scallions
1/2 cup red bell pepper
2 tablespoons red onion
1/2 cup carrots
1/2 cup sweet potato
1/2 cup butternut squash
1 clove minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped mint
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
Rinse and drain quinoa. Boil 2 1/2 cups water in two separate pots. Add quinoa to one pot. Cook 15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed, remove from heat, and let stand for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and let it cool. Place lentils in the other pot, cook ‘al dente’, drain, and cool. Chop scallions, red pepper, red onion, carrots, sweet potato, and squash into 1/4 inch dice. Quick steam the squash, sweet potato, and carrots ‘al dente’ and cool. Combine liquids and toss with quinoa and lentils, fold in the veggies, garlic, and mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I retired from AAA, where I had worked for many years as the employee relations and diversity manager, in January. We were presented with an early retirement offer and almost 500 people retired at once, which was pretty incredible. I decided to enroll in culinary school at Oakland Community College with my free time. I have two grown daughters. In our family, we are all Wolverines. We all graduated from the University of Michigan.
What made you decide to enter the culinary program?
I’ve always enjoyed cooking. It’s always been my favorite hobby. If I’m bored, I’ll make something. When I have a lot of spare time, I cook too much. It has been interesting learning with a wide range of people in class, especially since a lot of them are younger than my children. Most people in the program want to work in restaurants, but I am mostly doing it for myself. I may go into catering or cottage food business. My first class was actually a nutrition class.
How did you first find out about Cooking Matters?
If there’s ever a channel on at my house it’s Food Network. That’s how I found out about Cooking Matters. Once I had a lot of time on my hands, I started fishing around online and found more information on the website. I was already familiar with Gleaners because AAA always did a can drive each year. Cooking matters is the best kept secret in the world; more people need to know about it!
What do you enjoy most about volunteering with our program?
I love working with kids. It’s just a blast! They’re so curious and open minded. Sometimes you don’t have their full attention, but they’ll try anything in a group like that. This summer, I worked with special needs youth at the Jerry L. White Center. It was a super group of kids.
What is your favorite food to cook at home?
I’m known for my chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling and bittersweet ganache frosting – it’s just known as “the cake”.
Do you have any tips for saving money while grocery shopping?
Don’t go to the store hungry! If you do, you’ll end up in the prepared foods section thinking “I’ll get this, and I’ll get this, and I’ll get this!” Also, stick to what’s in season. That can be a big money saver.
Would you like to share a healthy recipe?
I had a big garden this year, although the squirrels gave my tomatoes a tough time. One of the things I make with the kale I grow is kale chips:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees
Wash and thoroughly dry 1 bunch of kale. If the kale is wet, the chips will not get crisp.
Remove the kale leaves from the tough stems. Discard the stems.
Tear the leaves into small pieces.
Rub the leaves with about 1-2 teaspoons olive oil. Place the leaves in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt.
Bake for about 10-15 minutes until the edges are barely brown.
Let the kale chips cool on the cookie sheet. They will get more crisp as they cool.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am originally from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Since living here, I have fallen in love with the city of Detroit! Currently, I am a junior at Wayne State University and honored to be one of only three undergraduate students selected to be a part of the Coordinated Dietetics Program. I also have published research on the affects and preventative aspects of nutrition on Alzheimer’s disease. I have always had a passion for nutrition, but since my knowledge has expanded through studies and research, I love to share my knowledge with others!
How did you first find out about our program?
There are many students at Wayne State who volunteer for Cooking Matters. After hearing their stories of how much they enjoy the program, I decided to try it out for myself!
What is NutriWayne?
NutriWayne is a student-run organization at Wayne State University. There are five other board members besides myself, and we all share a passion for nutrition. Our goal is to educate the Detroit community and student population about nutrition and their health. Additionally, we provide networking opportunities for students majoring in nutrition and food science. This past year, we even published our own virtual FREE healthy cookbook for college students on a budget. Our mission statement is “Sharing what we know, helping our community grow.”
We hear that you’re a cheerleader for the Tigers. What is that like?
I love, love, love it! I have been a dancer since the age of 3. I had the opportunity to audition for the Detroit Tigers Energy Squad this year, and I am so glad I did it! We are a team of about 30, and you can find 6 to 12 of us at every home game. We lead fan activities, give away promotional items, and dance on the dugouts. It is a great organization to work for, and I have met some amazing young women who I am blessed to call my friends.
What is your favorite healthy snack?
Peanut butter banana and KALE smoothie! Trust me, it’s amazing!
What is the best thing about volunteering with Cooking Matters?
My favorite thing would have to be the people themselves– the coordinators, other volunteers, and the participants themselves. I love sharing my knowledge of nutrition, but I also love hearing the participant’s stories, recipe ideas, struggles, and successes. It is truly amazing to watch a class grow over only 6 weeks. Oh, and my classes are always a lot of FUN!!
Do you have a favorite recipe you’d like to share?
Green peanut butter & banana smoothie!
1 large frozen banana
1 cup chopped kale
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 teaspoon of agave syrup or honey
(You may need to add ice if not using a frozen banana)
Put everything in a blender and blend!!
Tell us a little about yourself. Why did you decide to pursue a culinary career?
Since the age of 5, I have had a love for baking that was first inspired by my mother. Now, more than thirty five years later, I’m a pastry chef and the founder of Dessert Diva LLC. I graduated from Oakland University, and began my career in accounting. My love for the kitchen continued. I took my passion for baking and went back to school and studied Pastry Arts at Oakland Community College in Farmington Hills, Michigan. After graduating, I have been involved in designing, baking and delivering cakes, cupcakes and various pastries for her growing number of clients. My passion for the pastry arts has brought smiles to so many throughout Southeast Michigan for over 7 years. My biggest thrill is making wedding cakes; to be part of the biggest day of a couple’s life is awesome.
What is your favorite thing to make for special occasions?
My favorite food to prepare for family and friends is Strawberry Tiramisu.
How did you get involved in Cooking Matters?
I’m involved with the ACF (American Culinary Federation), and at one of the meetings Cooking Matters let all the chefs know about the great opportunity to get involved. Ever since, I try to sign up for classes and be a part of the great group of volunteers.
You’ve become a great Cooking Matters advocate and recruiter at ACF meetings. Why do you think it’s important for culinary professionals to get involved?
It’s important to give back to the community, in any way one can. It’s extra special to be able to help with the field that I’m passionate about: to show how easy it is to cook, and that it really is not hard. I remember one student that did not cook and she shared with the class that she learned so much. It’s times like those that we do not forget. Culinary professionals should give back. Cooking is what we do, and we love to share our knowledge.
As a pastry chef, do you have a recipe for a “sometimes” food that you’d like to share with us?
My current favorite recipe is Strawberry Tiramisu.
1 1/4 cups strawberry preserves
1/3 cup plus 4 tablespoons Grand Marnier, divided
1/3 cup orange juice
1 pound mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 1/3 cups whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 pounds fresh strawberries, divided
52 crisp ladyfingers
Whisk preserves, 1/3 cup Grand Marnier, and orange juice.
Place mascarpone cheese and 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier in bowl, mix just to blend.
Beat cream, sugar, vanilla, and remaining 2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier to soft peaks.
Stir 1/4 of whipped cream mixture into mascarpone mixture to lighten, fold in remaining whipped cream.
Hull and slice in half all the strawberries.
Spread 1/2 cup preserve mixture over bottom of 3 quart oblong serving dish or 13″ x 9″ x 2″ glass baking dish.
Arrange enough ladyfingers over preserve mixture to cover bottom of dish.
Spoon 3/4 cup preserve mixture over ladyfingers, then spread 2 1/2 cups mascarpone mixture over.
Arrange sliced strawberries over mascarpone mixture.
Repeat layering with remaining ladyfingers, preserve mixture, and mascarpone cheese mixture.
Cover with plastic and chill at least 8 hours or overnight.
Arrange sliced strawberries over tiramisu and serve.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I have been married for 33 years to a wonderful man. We have three grown children and a two-month-old grandson. I retired last year from a finance position at Severstal North America in Dearborn and I have been thoroughly enjoying my free time!
How did you first connect with Cooking Matters?
A year or two before I retired, I was invited to attend a Gleaners’ Women’s Power Breakfast. I was moved by the stories of food insecurity right here in our own communities. When I retired, I decided to find a place to volunteer and Gleaners came to mind. I looked at the volunteer opportunities on the Gleaners web site and Cooking Matters seemed like a great program. I thought of the old adage, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Cooking Matters is a perfect fit for me because I love to cook and I’m interested in nutrition, so I signed up to be a class assistant.
What has been your best Cooking Matters moment so far?
I assisted Jake with a class of seniors recently. After the first class, one of the participants approached me and said, “Most of the programs they bring here [to the senior apartment building where the class was held] are ‘nonsense’. But this one is different. Cooking Matters is not ‘nonsense’.” Except she used a slightly more colorful word than “nonsense”. I loved it because she recognized after just the first class that we were sharing good information and that the class was going to be really useful.
Do you volunteer anywhere else?
I volunteer with a couple of other Gleaners programs: Fresh Food Share and the DTE Energy Garden in Farmington Hills. I also volunteer with the Detroit Public Schools’ Volunteer Reading Corps. I help kindergarteners at Dossin School with their reading skills.
What other things do you do in your spare time?
I like to spend time with my family and friends. I also enjoy cooking, knitting, reading and gardening.
Is there a recipe you would like to share with us?
This is one of my favorite quick dinners. In the time it takes to cook the spaghetti, you can make this wonderful, fresh sauce.
4 medium cloves of garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press (1 packed tablespoon)
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
3-4 tsp minced anchovies (about 6-8 fillets)
1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained, juice reserved
3 Tbsp rinsed capers
3/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped coarse
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves (optional)
1. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot. Meanwhile, mix garlic with 1 Tbsp water in a small bowl; set aside. When water is boiling, add 1 Tbsp salt and pasta; stir to separate pasta. Immediately heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté garlic and water mixture, red pepper flakes, and anchovies until garlic is fragrant but not brown – 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and simmer until slightly thickened – about 8 minutes.
2. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain, then return pasta to pot; add 1/4 cup reserved tomato juice and toss to combine.
3. Stir capers, olives and parsley (if using) into sauce. Pour sauce over pasta and toss to combine, adding more reserved tomato juice if necessary. Add more salt if necessary and serve immediately.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.
I live in Ann Arbor with my husband and 4 sons. All of my sons attend local colleges so we all live together, making for a busy and diverse home. All of my sons have jobs too, and each one of us is pursuing a different area so it is an interesting and lively place to be. Luckily for all of us, one my sons is in culinary school, studying to be a chef. We even team-taught a Cooking Matters course last summer, in between his semesters. We are an active bunch, and enjoy being outside and traveling to National Parks and wilderness areas.
What made you decide to pursue a career in dietetics?
I earned a B.S. in Nutrition and then earned an M.S. in Health Education, a joint degree from the schools of Public Health and Education, from the University of Michigan. Currently I am working on my PhD in Diabetes Education from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA.
I was a sickly child and as a result, I have been interested in healthy living for most of my life. I was able to improve my health through better eating and I believed that others could too. Too often medicine offers pills for symptoms instead of treating the underlying issue. Food is powerful and can improve the quality of life for most of us. I wanted to be part of that.
Could you please explain the work you have been doing for your dissertation?
I am not sure that I can convey with words how powerful participating in the first Cooking Matters course was for me. I saw that it really had the ability to change people’s lives, and that the combination of nutrition and food preparation was truly the key. After so many years of only discussing the nutrition component, I was hit over the head with a better way to help others put the ideas into practice. When I first volunteered, I was in the midst of my doctoral classes and realized that this program was what I wanted to focus on for my dissertation.
My dissertation focuses on the question, “How has participating in Cooking Matters changed your experience with food?” I know that CM asks everyone who participates to fill out a survey, but I also noticed that there isn’t a focus on those with diabetes. Furthermore, many of our participants have a hard time reading and writing, so a written format would not be the best means to get an answer to that research question. My research is limited to women with diabetes who have participated in CM classes. I offer them a type of follow-up to CM, a 7-week program where we discuss life with diabetes and how CM has changed their lives. Each week it lasts 1.5 to 2 hours. It is an opportunity to reflect on how they have implemented what they learned in the classes, talk about their lives and help each other. I offer these women an opportunity to share these changes with others by giving them cameras and asking them to visually represent these changes. I develop the images and then we add narrative to the photos. The results are powerful and insightful, and our exhibits have inspired others to sign up for Cooking Matters classes. Everyone wins!
What tips and tricks to you have for putting healthy meals on the table with such a busy schedule?
As I mentioned earlier, my sons are all still at home while they attend college, so I am feeding hungry young men every day! I have discovered that if I take a few hours every weekend to prepare several dishes for my family, then we eat better throughout the week. I don’t have the time or energy on weeknights to prepare the same type of meals, so this works out very well for us. This also helps planning my menus and grocery shopping because I can do it once a week. Also it works out well because we are not all home at the same time for dinner. People can eat when they need to and everyone gets both choices and healthy foods.
One suggestion that I would make for others is to use common ingredients. I get very annoyed by recipes in magazines where expensive and unusual specialty foods or spices are included. Sometimes that can make for an exciting change, but often more common ingredients will work just as well in the recipe. I look for recipes that do interesting things with common foods. They are more likely to be eaten and I won’t have to go searching for strange ingredients.
The other suggestion that I would make even for those who do not have to feed so many people as I do is to make a full recipe and freeze portion-sized quantities for later. The key is really in the portion-sized quantities. I find that if food is packaged so that little work is required later to make a meal, it is more likely to be eaten. This saves time and money and you will end up eating a better quality of food. Sometimes I make double recipes and freeze one, while serving the other one.
Is there a recipe you would like to share with us?
A good sauce is often the difference between a so-so recipe and a favorite. I like this recipe for barbeque sauce because it isn’t as sweet as the store-bought variety, has no extra additives, and is easy to make:
Makes about ½ cup
¼ cup ketchup
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce or low-salt soy sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp onion powder, minced onions or fresh onion, finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a saucepan. Add onion and garlic and cook about 3 minutes. Add ketchup, brown sugar, soy sauce and cumin and simmer for about 5 minutes. Cool before serving. Use immediately or store in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
Viki presenting a very excited Cooking Matters graduate with her
Cooking Matters grocery bag and cutting board.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I first got into cooking because of my father, who was a small grocer and meat cutter. My grandfather was too, in Detroit. I started working prepping food part-time while I was in college. After I graduated, I realized that I couldn’t stand being tied to a computer and cubicle. None of the jobs I was interviewing for would be a good fit. I spent 2 years as an apprentice at Holiday Market. I’ve worked there for 6 years now. I used to be a huge computer and music nerd growing up. Actually, I still am.
How did you first get involved with the Cooking Matters program?
When I first started volunteering at the food bank, I packed boxes for the Fresh Food Share program. Gleaners staff members told me about the Cooking Matters program because they thought it would be a good fit for me.
You’ve done eight classes this past year. What keeps you coming back?
When I first starting volunteering, I wasn’t sure what the participants were going to expect of me. Because of the “Food Network effect” I thought that they might want me to be loud, boisterous, and entertaining, or that they would try to stump me with difficult questions. When I realized how earnestly they wanted to learn about practical cooking techniques, everything changed. Instead of questions about obscure Middle Eastern fruits, I got things like “How do I sauté that?” “What is braising?” or “How can I get my kids to like green beans?” Once, I showed a participant how to make his own salad dressing. He was so surprised by how good it tasted. He made it at home and told me it really helped him to eat more vegetables and salads without adding junk food to them. I spend a lot of my time in a windowless kitchen preparing food for customers who may or may not appreciate it. Cooking Matters is refreshing because I can use my skills to help people in a way that is very meaningful to them.
Do you have any good tips for sticking to a food budget?
Find creative ways to make beans, veggies, rice, and noodles. Experiment with sauces. They can add flavor to anything. You’ll never get tired of eating staples if you have three or four great sauces.
What ingredients will we always find in your kitchen?
Canned tomatoes, fresh eggs, and oyster sauce.
What do you do in your spare time?
I’ve been thinking about buying a house in Detroit soon, so I am enjoying following the property auctions. I don’t really have an ideal neighborhood. I love discovering new music, and seeing live music.
Do you have a recipe to share?
Preheat over to 350 degrees
2 T minced garlic
1 diced sweet bell pepper
2 diced large mushrooms
1/2 diced medium zucchini
1/2 diced large Spanish onion
4 T extra virgin olive oil
2 diced roma tomatoes (substitute 1/2 can petite diced tomatoes)
2 tsp fresh chopped thyme
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup red wine
Combine in a bowl:
3 cups cubed (1/2″) old/dry/toasted bread
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 T salt
2 1/2 lbs ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
Over med/low heat, sauté the garlic, onion, mushroom, and zucchini until onion is transparent and beginning to brown. Add tomatoes, thyme and parsley and cook for 30 seconds. Add broth and wine and simmer until reduced by 1/4 to 1/3.
In a bowl, combine meats, cubed bread, salt and pepper and combine with a sturdy spoon until incorporated. Pour hot mixture over meat mixture and fully combine.
On baking sheet lined with parchment form a long slender loaf shape with hands.
Bake at 350 until cooked through – internal temp around 160 deg. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing and serving with fresh herb garnish.
A big supporter of volunteer events, Jared got to hang out with Santa at the Noel Night meetup in December.