Seattle U Students Learn to Cook on a Budget

Fellow Caroline Ferguson helps out with Executive Chef Christine Keff’s cooking demo at Seattle U as Azaria Seagall holds up a laptop showing a map of campus gardens with edible plants labeled

If cooking is one of those important life skills that should probably be taught in school but isn’t, then cooking on a budget is the extra-credit version of that class.

That’s why Bon Appétit at Seattle University collaborated with the school’s Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability and the student clubs Just Serve, Health and Wellness Crew, and Food with Spirit to host a second annual Food Day cooking class.

This year’s class focused on food insecurity, food access, and budget cooking. After I gave a brief intro about food insecurity, waste, and recovery, Executive Chef Christine Keff demonstrated three delicious dishes: pearl barley and mushroom risotto; salmon-head chowder; and braised ham hocks with vegetables.

Christine shared some great pearls of wisdom as she cooked. Guests learned that carrots, onions, and celery are foundational to many dishes and always inexpensive, while flavorful ingredients like dried porcini may seem expensive, but a little goes a long way to add incredible depth of flavor. She also talked about her days learning to make risotto at the Four Seasons restaurant in New York City, and asked the students for their opinions and input on future menu ideas.

“Budget cooking is real,” said Christine during the class, while hacking apart a salmon head with a cleaver. “You can’t always get two pretty steaks in a shrinkwrapped package.”

Between Christine’s lessons, students from each collaborating campus organization gave presentations on relevant topics ranging from the nutritional effects of food insecurity to foraging and cooking with campus edible plants, as well as volunteer opportunities at local food banks and soup kitchens. At the end of the class, they raffled off a copy of a food stamp budget cookbook, Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown.