The Campus Food Bank and Faculty of ALES team up to offer Campus Kitchen Sessions

The Campus Kitchen sessions are more than just learning how to cook; they are all about making great friendships.



YouAlberta is written by students for students.

Rebeca (she/her) is a fourth-year philosophy and political science honors student. Originally from Mexico, she retains her culture through cooking traditional Mexican dishes, trying new vegan recipes and making her food extra spicy. Rebeca relishes exploring Edmonton’s river valley hiking trails. Passionate about connecting with under-represented communities and telling their stories, she plans to pursue a career in journalism.

The first thing I thought about when I heard about the Campus Kitchen cooking sessions was how attending this event would help me improve my cooking skills and make my meals more varied. I never thought that the main takeaway from the cooking session I attended would have been the great friendships and memories I made while cooking. 

It is very accessible to attend these cooking sessions; all you have to do is register in advance. You do not have to buy anything or leave campus. All the ingredients and utensils necessary are provided by the Campus Food Bank, and the cooking class takes place in the Agriculture Forestry Centre teaching kitchen, in room 2-36. 

The Campus Kitchen sessions are a great opportunity for socialization. I went to the class without knowing anyone, and I was able to quickly meet others and make new friends. I found that everyone attending the session was very welcoming. It really helped that we had to prepare the meal in groups, because this way it became easier to approach others and start a conversation. We also had the opportunity to get to know each other better while we waited for the food to cook and while we cleaned after eating. 

Rebeca cooking

In each session, there is a different meal prepared each time, varying from diverse dishes from different cultures. These sessions also take into account diverse dietary needs, with vegan and vegetarian options available. Most of the recipes from the cooking sessions come from, which is very helpful for students who generally have limited time to plan and prepare meals and who are also on a budget. 

For this session, we prepared the "Southwest Lentils and Rice Skillet" dish. This meal was made in its entirety with vegetables, making it vegan, with the option to add cheese. According to the recipe, this meal is inspired by Mexican cuisine and can be prepared for lunch or dinner. 

I found these sessions very useful in learning to cook and expanding my knowledge of the different cultural recipes. Learning a new recipe along with others helped me improve my confidence in cooking new meals, at the same time, it reminded me that group work always makes things more fun!

Overall, these cooking classes were a great experience to learn more about one of my interests while on campus. I got to learn and acquire new skills outside of my classes without having to go very far. This experience has motivated me to keep looking for events to participate in on-campus and try to learn a new skill once in a while.

Cooking in groups also made the task easier and more fun. We cooked together in groups of three or four, dividing the tasks among the team. Some were in charge of gathering all the ingredients from the main table, others had to wash and cut the vegetables, others seasoned the food, and others mixed everything and stirred the pan. Being in groups gave me the opportunity to learn from others' cooking practices to improve mine. For example, I learned that some mix all the spices in a bowl before putting them in the pan with the rest of the food, while others add the spices one by one directly to the pan. I also learned some new onion-cutting techniques!

My favourite moment in the cooking class was when we gathered in a circle to eat together. Once we were done cooking, we lined up all the pans so that everyone had a portion of each team's meal, and we had a chance to try everyone's cooking. During this time, we rated each other's meals, and every team got a 10/10! This was also a good time to relax and share with the group what our favourite moments cooking were, something new we learned in the session and even exchange ideas of how we prepare similar meals at home. Another great thing is that after we finished eating, there was still plenty of food left over, so we were able to take home some of this food. I recommend taking an empty container to the sessions, just in case. For me, it was great to have already prepared my next day's lunch!

Q&A with Campus Kitchen participants

Franco, Maarij and Brendan, three U of A students and attendees of the session, share their experiences. 

What did you enjoy the most about the cooking class?

Franco: My favourite moment of the session today was meeting everyone and eating the meal we prepared together. 

Maarij: Being able to meet new people! This is my last year in university, so I am trying to socialize as much as I can by taking advantage of all the events that the university has to offer. 

Brendan: This is the second cooking class that I have attended so far. What I have enjoyed the most about the session today is talking to people and making new friends. 

How does this cooking class help you in preparing your own meals?

Franco: Ever since I moved out of my residence in my first year, I have been cooking on my own. Learning how to cook new dishes helps me keep variety when I am cooking for myself. 

Maarij: The Campus Kitchen has helped because I live alone and have to cook meals for myself. I tend to spend a lot of money eating out every day, mostly because I do not cook. Learning to cook would help me save some money in this aspect. 

Brendan: These classes have helped me get back into cooking and get my skills back. 

What would you like other students to know about these sessions?

Franco: I think others should try these classes, they are really fun, and it is great to see so many people come to the sessions. These classes are a great way to meet new people and to socialize a lot while learning something new. 

Maarij: I would like to encourage all students, especially first-years, to participate in these events. In my first years at university, I did not know about these classes until one of my friends told me about the different opportunities to get involved on campus. 

Brendan: I think they are fun, a great way to make new friends and learn how to cook diverse recipes. It is also a free session, which is something I appreciate. 

Q&A with Campus Kitchen  volunteers

Lauren and Pauline, some of the program facilitators and Campus Kitchen volunteers, share details about the sessions. 

Do the cooking sessions have a variety regarding cultural food and dietary needs?

Lauren: Since in the U of A community, there are a lot of students from different backgrounds, we try to incorporate recipes from different cultures and dietary needs in our cooking classes. We also take suggestions from participants and volunteers if they have something they want to see. We always try to have options that will work for people's dietary needs. For example, if one time we are cooking something with meat, we make sure to also have a vegan option. 

Pauline: We make an effort to incorporate a variety of recipes that fit the needs of the diverse group that participates in our sessions, and it is always great to try dishes from different cultures. For example, in today's session, we had a Mexican-inspired dish that was also vegetarian.

What is important about the socialization component of these classes?

Lauren: The Campus Kitchen sessions are a great opportunity to socialize, especially for people who are not from Edmonton or who are just starting university since it can often be hard to meet new people. We find that a lot of participants like to talk to each other while cooking. At the end, once we all finished cooking, we made a big circle to eat as a group the different dishes each group prepared. This is a great opportunity to share a meal together with the new friends people have made. 

Pauline: I like that at different times in the sessions, there is always the opportunity for socialization. One of my favourites is that at the end, we sit together as a group to enjoy our meal. It is a warm feeling and something I really enjoy. 

How can students get involved/volunteer in the Campus Kitchen Sessions?

Lauren: There are always opportunities to get engaged and volunteer with the Campus Food Bank and its different initiatives. The Campus Food Bank puts out the applications to take new volunteers at the start of fall, winter, spring and summer semesters. Anyone can apply as long as they are associated with the university in some way, for example, staff, students and alumni.

What makes the Faculty of ALES and the Campus Food Bank partnership special?

Pauline: The Faculty of ALES and the Department of AFNS have always had a focus on food and nutrition, so it is a great opportunity to collaborate with the campus food bank. We have the facilities, such as our teaching lab, that have all we need for the cooking sessions. We are also close to the food bank, which makes it easy to transport their supplies, and it is a great opportunity to collaborate. 

In which format (online/in person) are the cooking classes offered?

Lauren: All the cooking classes now are in person. We like it because this way you have the opportunity to get the "face to face" experience, which a lot of us value. Usually, the spots to participate in the cooking class fill up very quickly, but we put up the registration for the whole semester's classes so you can sign up weeks in advance if you are interested in coming. 

Are these cooking sessions available for students with any level of cooking skills?

Lauren: The classes are for students with any level of cooking experience, from beginners to advanced. We've had participants who have never used a knife before, as well as participants who have cooked for themselves for years. We get a mix of people who know how to cook and people who do not, which creates an opportunity for participants to interact and learn from each other. We think of it more as cooking sessions rather than just teaching people to cook.

Pauline: Our campus kitchen program is for everyone with different cooking skills, regardless of whether they already know how to cook or are just getting started. We use recipes that are very simple to follow. We have also noticed that the participants teach each other as well, so students are able to learn by interacting with other participants in the group.

What do you want readers to know about these sessions?

Lauren: I would definitely suggest for anyone who is interested at all to come, even if you feel you do not have that much experience. I think these classes are a great experience, and I always have a great time.

Pauline: I would like the campus community to know that the Campus Kitchen program is open to everyone to learn how to cook, have a good meal and just have fun!