Tired of eating out and eating unhealthily, students at Fairfield decided to brainstorm solutions to their cooking problems.

With the help of Professor Aaron Van Dyke, Paige Conlon ‘15, Lily Etemad ‘15, Marie Matta ‘15 and Matthew Rotondaro ‘16, pitched the idea of a cooking class to the University.

“A bunch of my friends and I live at the beach, so we have to cook every night and we don’t know a lot of recipes and we don’t know the basic techniques for cooking,” said Etemad. “So, we found out a lot of students were interested in this idea, and my research professor [Van Dyke] has a passion for cooking, so we spoke to him about it and we decided to team up to start this cooking class.”

After pitching the idea, several associations from Fairfield volunteered to sponsor the program named “Stags in the Kitchen.”

Vice President of Student Affairs Jim Fitzpatrick ‘70 and Sodexo decided to take part in funding the program so that students could attend the dinner series for free.

Culinary Director at Fairfield Chef Jacqui Lombard and Chef Matt Turner at Fairfield stepped up to become the instructors of the cooking class and from there, the group decided on what they wanted to do with the series. For the first class, which took place on Feb.17 in the Dolan School of Business’ kitchen, the group learned to make stir fry.

“We really wanted this series to be driven by student interest, so we got together with a couple of students who wanted to start the series. They brainstormed some ideas and that’s how we came up with stir fry,” said Van Dyke. “Then Chef Jacqui, Chef Jim and I thought about what we wanted to do during the workshop.”

Although the stir fry section at Barone attracts many students, the most difficult part of the cooking process is already completed for the students — all of the ingredients have already been chopped. In the first class, Lombard and Turner taught the students everything about the preparation of ingredients, from holding the knife, to julienning the onions and even mincing the garlic.

After being instructed, the group was allowed to design their own stir fry with any ingredient from the fridge. Some kept their ingredients simple, while others, like Matta, made zucchini noodles for the stir fry with the help of Lombard.

Like many others in the class, Matta attended the class in hopes to improve her cooking skills.

“I’m not really a good cook at all, so I don’t really like it, and I don’t like the amount of time it takes,” said Matta. “I’m always looking for faster recipes and things that I can cook on the go.”

Lombard, a food enthusiast, understands the struggle that many students are placed with, whether it’s a lack of time to cook or lack of knowledge to prepare.

“The goal of these sessions is, one, to cook healthfully and safely, but most important, affordably and with a lot of flavor,” said Lombard. “If you have 20-30 minutes, you can have a great meal, and you have an excuse to touch base with your roommates.”

At the end of the session, students were able to enjoy their home cooked meals as they talked about what they were going to make at home and what their plans for the next session were.

“We are probably going to plan another session for next semester, at this point, perhaps even two sessions next semester,” said Rotondaro. “We’re going to do different food themes each time, like “Breakfast for Dinner” night, “Sunday Dinner” night and “Ultimate Burger Night.”

As for now, these Stags will be able to head home and cook a fresh and healthy meal in just about 20 minutes.

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