Culinary Boot Camp teaches cooking and grocery shopping skills


Manichanh Naonady/Iowa State Daily

Participants practice their knife skills during the Culinary Boot Camp on Oct. 2.

Manichanh Naonady

Its not your typical boot camp.

On Oct. 2 students got the chance to learn basic survival skills at this Boot Camp by learning how to enhance their culinary knife skills, an opportunity that will come each of the next two Monday’s as well. 

Approximately 30 students gathered at Mackay Hall. They were greeted with a friendly face, a name tag and an assigned number. Many did not know what to expect, but all were sharing a hungry anticipation of the unknown. These students were at their first meeting for Culinary Boot Camp.

“Culinary Boot Camp was created to provide the ISU community with an opportunity to learn basic cooking and grocery shopping skills to improve overall competence and confidence in the kitchen as well as the grocery store,” said Jessica Young, a graduate student in Food Science and Human Nutrition.

Now in its second year, the Camp has expanded from a single night class to four nights spanning over four weeks. It began on October 2nd, to kick off Human Sciences week, and will continue on Monday evenings until October 23rd. 

“We have a four-week Boot Camp now, and it’s progressive,” said Erica Beirman, senior lecturer for the Food Science and Human Nutrition department. “Each week has a theme, and it starts with culinary skills development, with knife skills.”

Last Monday’s theme was a variety of fruit, beans and vegetable salsas, where chopping, dicing and slicing skills were essential. Knife techniques were taught by Jeremy Bowker, a residential ISU Dining chef. Bowker exposed students to a variety of knives while demonstrating how to safely work with the sharp tool.

“What I really came here for was to learn how to cook food more traditionally,” said Brennan Goodman, a senior in Economics and Statistics. “I concentrated the most on proper cutting technique…it was so much faster to cut an onion.”

This week consisted of egg omelets and grilled cheese. The remaining two weeks will include a chili cook-off and participants will get the chance to tour a local grocery store.

“Through this experience, my hope is that participants will become more comfortable with cooking and grocery shopping, in order to encourage a healthy and happy relationship with food and nutrition,” Young said.

The grocery store tour is one of the newest additions in this year’s Culinary Boot Camp, which some students are excited to experience.

“I’m definitely looking forward to the grocery store,” said Adina Harris, a junior in Animal Science. “I never have meals or recipes in mind…understanding the layout of the store and where to get what you need for it is pretty exciting.”

The Culinary Boot Camp is intended for all students, no matter their culinary skill level.

“Everyone would gain something from it,” Beirman said. “There’s a lot of the nutrition planning and understanding what’s in your food that we are going to talk about beyond the culinary skills.”

With the extension of the Camp this year, participants can continue to look forward to an ongoing theme of a featured ISU Dining chef each week, weekly goodie bags of tools and gadgets, and upon completing all four sessions, participants will receive a $15 HyVee gift card. 

“I really want everyone at ISU to have a healthy and happy relationship with eating,” Young said. “Learning how to cook and grocery shop is an excellent place to start.”

This event is not only for students. Staff and faculty will get a shot at the Culinary Boot Camp this upcoming Spring.