Breakfast for dinner

Blueberry muffins, scrambled eggs and omelets are some of the dishes Stanford students are making at the Teaching Kitchen.

Stanford students are learning to make healthy and sustainable meals in Cardinal Cooks , a class offered by R&DE Stanford Dining and taught at the Teaching Kitchen in the Arrillaga Family Dining Commons. The course - offered year-round - teaches the fundamentals of cooking, as well as hands-on kitchen skills.

Stanford students and staff watch as Chef David Iott gives a demonstration during a Cardinal Cook class. (Image credit: Keith Uyeda)

The eight-week course takes place in the Teaching Kitchen, which opened in January 2015. Since then, 640 classes have helped more than 5,200 Stanford community members build confidence in their cooking skills.

The curriculum inspires change through food education. During each class, Chef David Iott, Stanford’s culinary educator and training executive chef, discusses topics like food safety, sustainability, reading nutrition labels and preparing meals.

"When you cook for yourself, you know exactly what is going into your body," he said.

Loving breakfast

During a recent evening class, undergrads, grad students and university staff tackled the most important meal of the day: breakfast.

The class began with Iott demonstrating how to make blueberry-spelt muffins, which he said are a great swap for sugary muffins because spelt is a nutritious whole grain and packs a powerful fiber punch. He also encouraged students to purchase blueberries directly from the freezer section.

"They are now picked at the peak of season and same-day flash-frozen to lock in all the nutrients," he said.

After the demonstration, students returned to their individual cooking stations, outfitted with a conduction stove and utensils, to make their own muffins. While the muffins baked, the class learned to prepare what Iott called the "best scrambled eggs you’ll eat for the rest of your life."

Along the way he provided tips. For instance, cooking eggs over low heat keeps them from becoming rubbery. He also recommends buying cage-free eggs - a happy chicken lays tastier eggs - and always heeding the sell-by date.

Veggie omelets

The class then prepared veggie omelets. Using knife skills they learned in week one of the course, the students chopped mushrooms, sweet peppers and scallions. Iott advises precooking the veggies, as they won’t have time to cook if simply folded into the eggs. He also suggested adding a sharp cheddar and warned the class to use caution when handling large box graters - students can accidentally "flavor" omelets with their grated knuckles if not careful! Students then sautéed their ingredients and gingerly folded their omelets.

Chef David Iott teaches sophomore Alice Wang how to prepare breakfast in a Cardinal Cooks class. (Image credit: Kim Ratcliff)

The course is open to all Stanford community members of all experience levels. While baking is nothing new for sophomore Alice Wang (her specialty is mango mousse cake), she said she’s taking the class to step up her cooking game in preparation for when she has to cook for herself.

"I never got a chance to learn before and this summer I’ll be living by myself for the first time while I intern at Google," she said.

Engineering grad student Ian Vorbach joined the class to broaden his culinary repertoire.

"I eat almost every meal here at AFDC," he said. "When I do cook, it’s chicken, broccoli and rice." But during the course, he’s learned how to make several meals, including teriyaki salmon, pinto bean tacos and three pasta sauces prepared from scratch.