On the menu this week: falafel and fattoush.
No, this isn’t your local Middle Eastern restaurant, but as David Morris explains, the chefs in this kitchen are serving up more than good food.
David, a youth-team case manager at Ometz, is one of the organizers behind a new cooking workshop that targets young adults (ranging from late teens to age 30), many of them living in low-income households.
“The goal is to teach skills, break the cycle of social isolation and help build a community,” says David, who has been running the workshop since June. When he first proposed the idea of a cooking workshop, Morris says his clients really gravitated towards the idea. “We held a focus group to learn more about what sort of workshops or groups we could offer and this is what they wanted,” says Morris.
He says the workshop really took off when Aaron, an Ometz client who has experience working as a professional chef, approached to offer his services. Aaron, who was also the recent honoree at the A Chance to Shine gala held this past June, was quickly brought on by Morris to help lead the bi-weekly workshop—a decision he’s very happy he made.
“Aaron is a fantastic cook and a great teacher,” says David. “He knows so much about food, health and cooking techniques—and he’s very patient and approachable.”
At the workshop, the group of around eight young adults is taught various skills to be more self-sufficient in the kitchen, with each lesson covering meal preparation, grocery shop planning, food budgeting and nutrition. In addition to sitting down and sharing the meal they have prepared together, participants are encouraged to take home left-overs after each class so they can reduce their food expenses for that week.
The end of this year’s workshop will be celebrated with a Hanukkah-themed dinner and each participant will receive a personalized cookbook created by Aaron and David, filled with recipes, nutrition advice and cooking tips. David says he is already looking forward to bringing the group together again for the next workshop, starting this coming February.
“This workshop is providing a safe place for clients to share their issues, and helping them to build a support network,” says David, who adds the group has developed a “real bond” with one another. “A lot of them are experiencing the same struggles and I hear them talking about their future, their career goals, their education. It’s such an inspiration.”