‘Nutritious and delicious’: Vetri’s teaching kitchen is all about cooking up healthy meals with neighbors
At the teaching kitchen, food is a way to bring people together to connect and learn.Listen 2:02
Food is a key ingredient to life — it nourishes and fuels us. But cooking a meal from scratch or learning how to cook can be overwhelming for many.
Enter: Vetri Community Partnership’s free cooking classes.
The organization is dedicated to teaching people about nutrition through a variety of programs, including free community cooking classes that are low-key, stress-free, and culminate with a delicious meal. Vetri’s classes, which are based out of the nonprofit’s teaching kitchen at 915 Spring Garden Street, are open to everyone, regardless of age and experience level.
“We want to encourage cooking at home and to show how accessible, affordable, and approachable it is,” said Maddy Booth, CEO of Vetri Community Partnership. “For us, nutritious and delicious are the same thing.”
For the last 15 years, Vetri Community Partnership has been teaching children and families about food and health, from after-school activities to SNAP education programs.
The free cooking classes are the latest way for the organization to connect with community members. Residents have a chance to learn important information about food — like how to stock a pantry, determine the most budget-friendly items while grocery shopping, and, of course, how to make a meal from scratch. The classes are meant to be fun, and offer practical tips for everyday life.
“We know that if people are encouraged to cook at home, have the confidence, knowledge and are curious and aware of ways in which they can do that, in a way that’s accessible, affordable and approachable, then long-term health outcomes are much, much better,” said Booth.
Erika Dorsey, who manages the teaching kitchen program and helps lead classes, says the program’s goal is to connect with neighbors and work together to make a healthy meal.
“We will walk you through anything that you’re unsure of,” Dorsey stressed.
Dorsey hopes the classes can be both a respite for folks who cook meals every day and an inspiration for those new to the kitchen.
“Here we’re able to slow down and just get back into the meditative, zen vibe of cooking” where cooking is actually enjoyable, said Dorsey.
For the cooking classes, Dorsey and her team set up the space and put the ingredients out, along with tools, aprons, and other necessities so that participants can jump in and have a hands-on experience. The kitchen can host up to 25 people per class.
“When you’re here in the teaching kitchen, you’ll cook something, you’ll taste something, and you learn something,” said Christin Kwasny, Vetri’s director of development.
Previous classes have explored recipes like chicken tinga tacos and shakshuka. For the program’s first class in March, community chefs cooked up a Thai coconut curry with a crunchy herb salad and jasmine rice.
Roshan Basil helped make the curry. He showed up because he wanted to pick up basic cooking skills.
“I’m a bachelor. I don’t cook and I’m always on the go,” said Basil. “Usually if I get something that’s frozen, I’ll throw it in a pot and that’s my cooking expertise as of now. So I’m looking to learn a little bit more.”
Plus, eating out is growing more expensive, said Basil. “I’m trying to learn how to maybe make some inexpensive meals and save money.”
While Basil became acquainted with how to julienne a carrot, other participants took on separate elements of the meal, from breaking apart cauliflower to chopping cabbage and searing tofu.
Martha Victoria came in with her family — her mom, Felicitas, and three younger brothers, Jacob, Lucas, and Joshua — all under eight years old. Victoria is on a pre-med track at Drexel University and studies food and nutrition. She also volunteers at Vetri and thought they would enjoy the class together.
“They love helping my mom a little bit with cooking, so I thought why not come here to a class where they’re instructing little kids,” said Victoria.
At the teaching kitchen, food is a way to bring people together to connect and learn. Classes are free, participants enjoy a meal at the end and, usually, there are leftovers to take home.
“We want to not be the best-kept secret in Philadelphia,” said Booth. “We want more people to know about how we do what we do.”
If hunger strikes and you want to try out a new recipe, Vetri’s next teaching class is on Tuesday, March 14.
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