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Caring through cooking

Chef Andrew Hewson incorporates giving back to his curriculum.

Chef Andrew Hewson incorporates giving back into his curriculum.

A recipe for creating more community-minded chefs is what Andrew Hewson has cooking this year.

The SAIT professional cooking instructor has added a component to the curriculum that will teach students the importance of giving back to the community through food and cooking.

It's an element he wanted to incorporate to make students more aware of those who are less fortunate in the city — especially when it comes to accessing quality food.

"As cooks and chefs, it's important to give back and help out," he says. "As a school, we need to get more involved in community efforts like this."

Giving back

Starting Friday, Sept. 22, Hewson will take his Introduction to Nutrition class every three weeks to The Alex Community Food Centre — a community hub in the city's southeast that offers free cooking classes, healthy meals and food-related programs to low-income Calgarians. Here, the students will share their skills and be extra sets of hands for the non-profit organization. In the next few weeks, that will likely mean processing all the vegetables harvested from The Alex's garden so they will have access to that produce in the coming months.

Hewson says the initiative is a natural extension of the curriculum, which also covers health and wellness. Providing healthy, fresh food — breaking down the barriers for low-income Calgarians trying to access it — is important, says Hewson.

"I've always wanted to do more of that in the community," he adds.

Waste not, want not

This is not the first time Hewson has brought the kitchen to the community. This past summer, he took part in Feeding the 5,000 Calgary event, a global initiative highlighting the amount of food wasted.

Using perfectly edible — if slightly bruised or misshapen — fruits and vegetables, along with leftover bread products, Hewson and other volunteers made meals for some 6,700 people.

Carrots and potatoes from Poplar Bluff Organics were transformed into potato salad and a vegetable soup, while five cases of green peppers rejected by the customer for being the wrong size went into a panzanella salad. Copious amounts of bread from COBS Bread made for a sweet finale in the form of a bread pudding.

"We're seeing a shift in our whole awareness around food issues," Hewson says. "There's a practical side of a commercial kitchen utilizing everything and not wasting food. There's a tremendous amount of waste, but it can be redirected — even into staff meals, taking care of your own people."