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Holiday Cooking | Step 2: Learn how to cook

Bon Appetit employees in the Founders' kitchen. (Morgan Ross)

With shows like Hell’s Kitchen and Top Chef taking over television and computer screens, it’s difficult not to pick up a spatula and join the cooking craze. But with a heavy courseload at the top of students’ priority lists, finding the time and the money to learn how to cook can seem like an impossible task. In an effort to help those anxious to saute their way to the top of the culinary arts, Mills College dining provider Bon Appetit plans to give the campus community an early holiday present: a cooking class.

“The cooking class was Jason’s idea to give back to the community because everyone was asking about the current programs that we have,” said Raul Garcia, Executive Sous Chef. “The students are asking more questions about techniques and products that they see up here at Founders or down at the Tea Shop. They want to know how they can bring these recipes to their tables at home.”

With a cooking class comprised of only 20 people, Bon Appetit hopes to make preparing chef-inspired meals almost as easy as walking into Founders Commons.

“We want to make it as intimate as possible to make it as interactive as possible,” said General Manager Jason Landau. “Everyone is making part of a meal.”

Jaime Dominguez, Executive Chef, and Garcia – both of whom have over 20 years of experience – will be teaching the class.

“It’s a hands-on class,” said Leslie Panion, Director of Catering and Conference Services. “People will be helping prepare the meal – chopping stuff, seasoning stuff, cooking stuff – so they’ll either go up and assist the chef when he calls on people or they’ll be getting things ready at their own stations.”

Those who attend the class who want to get more involved and show particular skill may be invited to participate in Bon Appetit exhibitions, such as the pasta bar and the omelet bar, at events – just as students already cater for Bon Appetit.

“We’re looking forward to…getting them out there so they can feel like they’re a big part of our Bon Appetit family,” Garcia said.

Nevertheless, the class’s focus will not be to recruit students. Rather, by teaching all of the steps, both the preparation and the cooking, Garcia hopes “to boost [students’] morale about being able to do something that looks difficult and challenging.”

“There isn’t going to be a final,” Garcia laughed. “It’s coming to a class, getting involved, having fun, getting educated and getting others just as enthused about it.”

For Panion, building a community around food is part of a Bon Appetit employee’s job description.

“One of the big things that Bon Appetit is all about is how food can bring people together,” Panion said. “It’s a way for people to come together, break bread, socialize.”

Landau finds community-outreach equally important.

“For us, it’s not about making money because we won’t be making any anyway,” Landau said of the class. “We just want to cover the expense and just have fun.”

If November’s cooking class receives positive feedback, Bon Appetit hopes to have more classes in the future.

“Hopefully we can do one every semester,” Panion said. “Maybe next semester we’ll do a Valentine’s Day one so you can go cook a meal for your loved one.”

The holiday cooking class is on Tuesday, Nov. 30 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Faculty Lounge. The class has only 20 spots and prior registration is required, so if you are interested in participating, call Leslie Panion at ext. 2062.

More Bon Appetit events coming up during the academic year include gingerbread house-making in December, Mother’s Day brunch and Easter brunch. For more information, visit this website.

Check out our other Holiday Cooking specials:

Step 1: Get excited about food
Step 3: Cook dinner yourself