Student chef McKenzie Dryden teaches fun, affordable recipes at Cooking on Campus
The Student Recreation Center is not new to offering students a hands-on, culinary crash courses. In fact, it has been doing so for the past few years with program Cooking on Campus.
The cooking class is taught by student chefs and features healthy, low-cost meals geared to accomodate college students.
The class explores all sorts of recipes, from whole grain apple spice muffins for breakfast, to quinoa and garbanzo bean veggie burgers for lunch and Mediterranean lemon chicken for dinner. Chefs also teach students how to bake desserts such as pumpkin swirl brownies and cheesecake-stuffed strawberries. All of the recipes can be found online at the Cooking on Campus website.
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Student chef McKenzie Dryden, a nutritional scienes junior, has been working with Cooking on Campus for two years now. Dryden aspires to be a dietician and to continue working with food throughout her life.
How long have you been cooking?
I’ve been cooking for a while. I was in the culinary arts program in my high school for all four years. I got to have a lot of experience with learning how to make a lot of different things. We even got to do cooking classes as one of our senior projects, so it gave me a lot of experience with that, which is cool.
Do you aspire to be a chef after graduating?
I want to be a dietician, I don’t actually want to work in a kitchen necessarily, but I do want to be around people who love food and love to eat healthy food.
How long have you been a chef with Cooking on Campus?
This is my second year. [Cooking on Campus] has been around for at least five years—it’s been around for a while.
What would you say the main goal of Cooking on Campus is?
It’s mostly designed for people living in dorms or apartments near campus who don’t have a lot of space or a lot of resources to cook, so we try and provide them with easy recipes they can make anytime, anywhere, in a really short amount of time.
Are the recipes geared toward being healthy or inexpensive?
Yes, both of those. We’ll try and do different things, we made sushi this week but we used tofu instead of different kinds of fish. Or we’ll make turkey wraps and use lettuce instead of tortillas, and things like that. It’s usually stuff that we want college students to be able to afford.
I read online that you bring in celebrity chefs. Who have you had come in this year?
We usually have [chef Michael Omo], he’s the executive chef of the Arizona Student Unions. He’ll come in once a semester and have a mystery class. We don’t even know until he comes in what he’s making. He teaches a different recipe than we would ever make.
Do many people show up for the classes?
We can only have about 20 people per class because the space is small, but we usually average about 15 or 20 people every class.
Is it mostly freshmen coming to the classes?
Oh, no, we actually get quite a few grad students to come in. We have sometimes some groups [come in]. I know for our first class, the office of transfer students got a big group together.
Wow, that’s awesome. I would expect it to be mostly younger students.
Yeah, well we do farmers markets on the UA mall to advertise the program and some students who see us will be seniors who didn’t know we had the program, and they’ll always want to start coming.
What would you say is the most popular class of this year?
Definitely our sushi class. It’s been the most popular in past semesters as well. It’s something people think is really hard to make and then they come to the class and realize it’s not. We make it like classic sushi, we use the sushi roll to make it. People are always wanting to know how to make their own, instead of going out to buy it. By far, that’s the most popular.
What is your favorite part about being a student chef?
Just showing people that things aren’t really as hard to make as they think they are. It’s fun to watch people in the last class and see the look on their face as they realize it’s actually really easy. People are really intimidated by making certain things. It’s cool to see people that don’t have a lot of experience realize that it’s really fun and really easy.
Cooking on Campus is offered on select Tuesdays throughout the semester for $5 a class. The next class will be held on Oct. 18 from 5:15 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. and will feature jack o' lantern-stuffed peppers, candy apples and pumpkin cookie dough. Sign up for a class on their website.
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