Pranati Chitta
Mercury Staff

Students, faculty connect with professional chefs while learning to cook unique dishes

Every month, Dining Hall West hosts the Teaching Kitchen, an event where DHW chefs show students how to prepare a meal. This meal is dependent on the super food of the month. This month, DHW chefs demonstrated how to make mushroom bisque.

“We are kind of gravitated to the why — where it came from, how it’s created,” said UTD Senior Executive Chef Gene Christiano. “We created the Teaching Kitchen to connect with our students and also use it as a team building process with faculty and staff.”

Each Teaching Kitchen is conducted in three levels. In the first level, a professional chef demonstrates how to make a dish with the super food of the month. Next, guests, which include students, staff and faculty, prepare snack sized portions of the entree with the chef. In the third step, guests are able to enjoy a full course meal made by fellow attendees.

“It’s amazing what we find through the Teaching Kitchen,” said Chartwells Resident District Manager Steven Goodwin.  “Some of the students don’t know some of the things we’re already doing.”

Meals made and demonstrated during the Teaching Kitchen are often the same meals offered in the dining hall for students and faculty.

“A lot of times, people think cooking is very difficult or expensive,” Christiano said. “What’s awesome about the Teaching Kitchen is that it allows us to talk about how to get to the ending point and not to be fearful of it.”

Christiano started working at UTD seven years ago and began the Teaching Kitchen in 2016 and has since hosted many iterations of the event.

“He did a teaching kitchen with items found in (The Market at DHW),” said Director of Food and Retail Services Carrie Chutes-Charley. “It was a really neat way to show how you can create simple dishes for yourself.”

The Teaching Kitchen also serves as a forum for students to express their opinions and desires for the dining hall.

“I love that the DHW Teaching Kitchen allows students, who eat here every day, to talk to Gene,” Chutes said. “In turn, he talks with the students and learns a little bit more about them.”

Chefs of the Teaching Kitchen also address problems such as food security and sustainability.

“What took me by surprise was the many different things you can use that are around you to reduce food waste,” said biology junior Vivian Nguyen. “By taking such a simple step like not (throwing) away the scraps of the rest of the vegetables you can use, it can contribute to such a big issue for our environment.”

This event is free and open to UTD students, staff and faculty.

“(It) is a great way for us to promote what we’re already doing that the students maybe unaware of, it allows us to bridge that gap.” Goodwin said. “It allows us to be able to tell our story.”