Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Start from Scratch Cooking Classes Teach Students to Sidestep Boxed Foods

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Start from Scratch Cooking Classes Teach Students to Sidestep Boxed Foods

Article excerpt

Classes inspire students to cook from scratch


TORONTO - Many cash-strapped post-secondary students have little extra money for food, let alone cooking classes. Enter Dan Clapson, a food writer and self-taught cook who provides free lessons to university students.

Clapson launched the hands-on program now known as Start From Scratch in January 2011 and offered it to students at the University of Calgary. He's opened it up to students at the city's Mount Royal University, and this fall students at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon will also benefit.

It was his way to help make some people's lives better, he explained by phone.

While shopping one day, the Calgary resident saw some young people with their grocery cart piled with frozen pizzas, instant noodles, boxed macaroni and other prepared items. Cringing, he thought, "I couldn't imagine eating like that anymore."

"I remember being young, 19 or 20, and you're going to school and you're broke and you don't really know how to cook anything, so you just default to that kind of stuff," he said. "I thought, 'I have some extra time. How hard could it be to teach some people how to cook?'

"Little did I know it would take a lot of time, but I enjoy doing it."

Clapson, 27, has recruited chefs, cookbook authors and other local food personalities to teach some of the classes. Dietitian Vincci Tsui has come on board to replace instructor Jacinthe Koddo, who's moving to Vancouver, and is invaluable in explaining how to read nutrition labels.

In their online applications, students are asked to explain why they want to participate and their level of cooking expertise.

"We look for the students that are not very good in the kitchen, not very talented and looking for some help," explained Clapson. "We like to have a range of talents in the classes. It's a good mix having ones with a bit more experience with ones who don't really even know how to boil pasta."

Three or four budget-conscious recipes are presented in each 2 1/2-hour session. Topics include quick and easy breakfast foods, appetizers and how to cook grains. There's a class on cooking a romantic dinner on a budget while "couch change classics" provides go-to recipes for times when cash found among the sofa cushions determines what's for dinner.

Alyssa Athanasopoulos, who recently graduated from the communications program at the University of Calgary, was a participant.

"I wanted to do something with my love of food and came across this ad for an opportunity for students to cook better because I was living on my own and didn't really have a clue and made toast all the time. I applied and was so lucky to get in."

Athanasopoulos, 26, and Sarah Cicchine, a Mount Royal student, both liked the class when Connie DeSousa, co-owner of Charcut Roast House, toured participants around the Calgary Farmers' Market. …

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