Stanford to teach students to cook healthy meals

stanford teaching kitchen

Students hone their cooking techniques in the Teaching Kitchen.

Last month, students at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., learned how to make mushroom risotto courtesy of celebrity chef and food activist Jamie Oliver.

The tutorial was a taste of what students will experience in the new Teaching Kitchen, an interdisciplinary program that will teach students cooking skills to help them build lifelong healthy eating habits.

The program, which will officially be launched next fall, will be a partnership between Stanford’s foodservice department and faculty, and the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation.
“[Jamie] is very passionate about health, about preventing diet-related disease,” says Eric Montell, executive director of Stanford Dining. “A lot of our values are similar in how we think about our students, not just in their time here, but also in their future.”

Classes will be held in the teaching kitchen at the Arrillaga Family Dining Commons. The kitchen has an open-concept design with glass partitions that allow onlookers to see food as it’s prepared.

Though Oliver won’t be teaching the classes, the teaching chefs will be certified in Oliver’s teaching style and use his recipes.

Oliver and his team are working with Stanford to develop a course curriculum and will host “pop-up” classes that teach students basic cooking techniques in the interim,
says Montell.

Stanford faculty members have a history of adding a food component to their curriculum. For example, it’s not uncommon for faculty from Stanford’s School of Medicine to teach about preventive health and host a cooking class on healthy cooking techniques.

This approach not only allows students to make connections between their studies and food, but also gives them a greater appreciation of the role that food plays in everyday life.

“There are medical students who are interested in health outcomes through diet, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that, as bright as they are in their discipline, that they have knowledge of food principles,” Montell says.

The program is a way for students to learn—or solidify—healthy cooking techniques that can last a lifetime. Often, students will mention that they enjoy eating an item such as Swiss chard or eggplant at a restaurant but are unsure of how to prepare these ingredients in their own kitchens, Montell says. Based on that information, Stanford will offer classes on how to prepare such ingredients.

“Students that have some basic cooking knowledge will cook better for themselves and, in the future, cook better for their families,” Montell says.

Stanford is seeking multiple ways of funding the program, including incorporating classes as a component of students’ meal plans, having graduate students pay a course fee, and offering sessions as a team-building activity for faculty. Stanford also is considering seed funding to offset the program’s development costs. 

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