Based in Toronto, Ontario, Nancy Matsumoto is a writer and editor who covers sustainable agriculture, food, sake, arts and culture.

Archival posts from my former blog, Walking and Talking

Cooking Teacher for a Day

From left, students Angel Gutierrez, Melvin Carter, instructor Andrea Bergquist-Zamir, Carrie Pierre, Lewil Rodriquez, Martha Nunez and Dominique Icart.
As a non-professional in the kitchen,  I was happy to be invited to guest teach my second Japanese food cooking class at the West Side Campaign Against Hunger (WSCAH) recently. Chef Andrea Bergquist-Zamir has headed the Chef Training Program at the supermarket-style food pantry since May 2013, and has transformed it into a serious career training opportunity for WSCAH clients, many of whom face challenges ranging from lack of housing and documentation to mental illness. For some students, just getting to WSCAH or finding adequate childcare are major hurdles to overcome.

The first time I guest taught was in February. We made ozoni, the traditional rice cake soup served on New Year's morning (read my Saveur article on it here) and chirashizushi, a sushi rice dish scattered with various vegetable and other mix-ins Since the students loved both dishes, and they worked well in the class, we decided to repeat the same dishes even though ozoni is not exactly a dish for summer.





Once again, I found the students an impressive bunch: enthusiastic, eager to learn, and determined to get the dishes right. They were also once again adventurous in their tastes, and they delighted in eating the dishes we made. One student, Awilda Santana, exclaimed to me, "We're so lucky to be here now, at this time in food, when so much is happening." I couldn't agree more. Santana, as she is known by her classmates, also insisted on giving me her beautiful apron (which another WSCAH client had made by hand) and her chef's hat.

Student Awilda Santanna

Chef Andrea, who opted out of a high-powered career as executive chef of Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster and Merkato 55 to teach at WSCAH,  is proud that graduates of her classes have landed jobs in a wide variety of restaurants and kitchens, from Shake Shack and Whole Foods to Lucy's Whey, The Filling Station and Hot Bread Kitchen, to name just a few. Connecting with people and giving joy and hope through the food of one's heritage is a powerful feeling, and I felt grateful for the opportunity to do so. Now I'm just hoping I get invited back!





Coffee Cupping: How to Taste like a Pro

With Sake, Rules Are Made to be Broken: In the Class with John Gauntner