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Graduate College students learn valuable life skills in partnership with College of Health Solutions

Chef speaking to students in a kitchen.

Chef Kent Moody talks with Graduate College students during a cooking demonstration at the College of Health Solutions' Kitchen Café on Dec. 1. Photo by Lilia Todorova/ASU

December 07, 2023

Arizona State University’s Graduate College teamed up with the College of Health Solutions to put on an event for students last week that went beyond professional development.

The vegetable stir fry demonstration, held at the College of Health Solutions’ Kitchen Café on Dec. 1, offered those students who took part an opportunity to learn how to take better care of their bodies while learning valuable skills.

Elizabeth Wentz, vice provost and dean of the Graduate College, said the demonstration was an opportunity to support “the whole person.”

"The Graduate College supports graduate students and postdocs with professional development opportunities when it comes to their careers and academics,” Wentz said. “But supporting the whole person includes nourishment. We are so glad to have found a partner in the College of Health Solutions to offer a cooking class as a part of our semester-long event theme on food, food insecurity and sustainability.

"Graduate students are extremely bright and passionate. They are challenged to reach new heights intellectually. We hope this cooking class serves as a reminder to take time to take care of your body as well as your mind."

What the students learned

Kent Moody, the College of Health Solutions chef who led the demonstration, said the focus of the demonstration included teaching the students to safely cook for themselves. There were lessons on knife skills and other cooking techniques and getting over the fear of cooking for themselves.

But discussions on what to prepare also played an important role in the event.

“We did a vegetable stir fry because what we were trying to get across was the idea you don’t need a recipe — don’t let not having certain ingredients stop you. You can just get vegetables and cook them,” Moody said. “Cook whatever you like, whatever you’re into, whatever is available. Cook things that are on sale, available at the pantry or that fit into a student budget.”

The idea of stretching a student’s food budget is an important one. Food insecurity can be an issue for students, particularly students who are far from home (especially in the case of international students) and are away from their families.

Maureen McCoy is a registered dietician and senior lecturer with the College of Health Solutions. She is also faculty advisor for the Pitchfork Pantry, a food bank for ASU students.

“Learning how to cook in general is a very important skill that Chef (Moody) is so great at imparting,” McCoy said. “But if they know how to cook and stretch their food dollars, that will be a massive improvement on their food security status.”

A 'year of food'

Wentz envisioned a series of events for students this year centered around food, which have included a distinguished lecture with comedian Kristina Wong and a Celebration for Resilience, featuring Chef José Andrés. These events discussed food banks, emergency relief and making communities more resilient. At ASU Homecoming, the Graduate College turned its booth into a market, giving away fresh fruit.

There were also discussions of the role of nature in our food supply and other topics related to food over the course of the fall semester, with more scheduled to take place in the spring.

The Dec. 1 event was the first cooking demonstration, but it isn’t likely to be the last. Event planners are already exploring the possibility of other demonstrations, and students, at least the ones who attended the first event, are looking forward to more.

Jailene Sanchez was among the students who took part in the hands-on demonstration and learned to make a “very delicious” stir fry.

“It’s nice to know my school offers things like this,” Sanchez said. “I had never attended one of these events, but when I saw this one on the calendar I signed up.

“I would love to do more things like this. I would definitely participate again.”

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