Clad in aprons, gloves and chef hats, Fairfield University students learned the ins-and-outs of healthful nutrition as they prepared their own dinners during a Tully cooking class on Tuesday, Oct. 24.

Led by Fairfield University Student Association Health and Wellness Committee (H&W) and Stags Hospitality, two sessions of 10 students each grabbed at the opportunity to cook vegetable fried rice alongside the guidance of Executive Campus Chef Joseph Dostilio. As a First Year Experience (FYE) Thrive credit, the event exhibited a full turnout of eager and attentive participants.

“We believe that nutrition plays a significant role in H&W, so an event that highlights a healthy cooking recipe therefore works to encourage a healthy lifestyle,” reported Health and Wellness Co-Chairs Andrew Mejia ‘26 and Julia Kormylo ‘24.

Platters of vegetables and rice replaced typical toppings of tomatoes and guacamole behind the Tully Dining Commons’ avocado toast station. During both sessions, each lasting roughly 30 minutes, five students worked on their own pre-prepped burner while an additional five students waited and observed. Chef Dostilio began each class with a short introduction and “sample,” a preliminary explanation of ingredients and a walk through of the appropriate techniques for successful vegetable fried rice.

Offering additional support at the class, branded by Fairfield University as “Kitchen 101,” was campus dietitian Joana Schipke. 

According to Schipke, these educational classes integrate a wide array of utensils, ingredients and equipment to propel culinary confidence and empower students to make informed consumption choices. 

“When you cook a meal yourself, you determine what ingredients are used and the amounts that go into it, compared to eating out where oftentimes the food is loaded with excess fat, sodium and added sugars,” she conveyed.

Correspondingly, the recent “Kitchen 101” event raised emphasis on healthy ingredient substitutions, such as brown rice for white rice or lower-sodium soy sauce for a regular bottle.

As the students cooked, Chef Dostilio made sure to not only remain open for questions but to provide effective feedback and reinforcements, as well as descriptors of the fragrant, savory aromas. He reminded students that although this recipe lacked additional protein, the possibility of meats like shrimp or chicken could certainly be utilized. 

“Learning recipes from experienced chefs and dietitians can be vital for students because of the credibility and knowledge that they bring,” explained H&W Representative for Fitness and Nutrition, Bryan Santos ‘26. “[Because] the chefs and dietitians are experts in their field, the advice and instruction they offer is of great value.” 

Kormylo and Mejia continued that learning from Tully chefs establishes a more personal and interconnected living space, two values the committee regularly promotes. 

“The student experience is always on the forefront, and being able to work side-by-side just adds to our overall campus experience,” said Chef Dostilio.

Fairfield University’s H&W Committee acts as an outlet for student advocacy around physical, mental, spiritual and emotional health. Composed of seven representatives and a variety of themes, such as Fitness and Recreation, the committee aims to support student well-being through numerous initiatives and events.

With the acknowledgement that campus is a place not solely for learning but for socialization, Mejia and Kormylo emphasized the event’s intentional incorporation of student social aspects as well.

This hands-on class was made possible by H&W’s collaborative efforts with Stags Hospitality to issue a proper promotion of nutrition. Santos believes that, especially for students without meal plans, nutrition can play several roles in an individual’s physical and mental well-being. 

Kormylo and Mejia further revealed the committee’s goal to “give students new, healthy cooking ideas and skills as they are now living more independently.” 

“By conducting this event we hope to inspire students to create healthier dishes on their own time, as incorporating more nutritious dishes can boost physical and mental health.” 

Santos added that instruction from campus chefs and dietitians can aid students’ motivation to improve their own nutritional health.

As the campus dietitian, Schipke’s main role is to ensure that the dietary needs of students, such as allergies, are met with proper accommodations. This work is done through one-on-one nutrition counseling as well as various campus wellness events.

While the goal is to equip students with culinary knowledge, skills and confidence, Schipke voiced the additional objective of “Kitchen 101” to give students a fun, rewarding and stress-free experience. 

For the first Fitness and Nutrition event of the year, the Tully Cooking Class went over with mass appeal. Able to indulge in their creations after their time at the burner, the new chefs expressed sure satisfaction with their results.

“It’s good to have something interactive,” commented Schipke. “The feedback from the participants was overwhelmingly positive and students seemed to have a blast. Everyone walked away with some new skills, full stomachs and smiles on their faces.”

A representation of the entire student body, FUSA President Aliyah Seenauth ‘24 asserts the importance for the association to support an event like this one, which values how we feed our own bodies to increase personal wellness. She declared it is certainly something they will revisit in the future.

“An event like this commemorates our university’s mission of caring for the mind, body, and spirit….[it] is a glimpse into the great things H&W plans to do going forward.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.