UMass Boston offered an international cooking class on campus in the East dorm building’s dining hall on Wednesday night, Nov. 20, 2019.
The class was hosted by the executive chef of the dining hall, and took place inside of the kitchen in the back. The students were surrounded by the chefs who make their food every day, and were given a hands on opportunity to improve the quality of the food they eat and learn more about the place they spend so much time in. When we first began, I was expecting to learn how to cook a full course dinner with the chef, but was told we would be baking cookies instead. I was pleasantly surprised to hear this, as I am not a great cook, and I feel much more confident and comfortable baking cookies rather than a meal.
The class was made up of around 15 to 20 people and was quickly separated into three groups consisting of roughly 6 people. Our first task was to choose a team leader or captain for an undisclosed task. Then, the chef asked a cooking question to decide who would choose from the three piles of turned over papers, so we didn’t know what was behind each of them. One pile had an easy recipe, one had a normal recipe, and one had a difficult recipe. After each captain chose their random recipes, we were given a timer to begin cooking. One of the recipes was Italian Ricotta cheese cookies (easy), one was Swedish Butter and Jam thumbprints (normal) and the last was a Malawi sweet potato spice cookies (difficult).
We were given about 20 minutes to get everything together from our recipe sheet and come up with the dough on the pan, and we were anticipating a contest between the teams, so the tension in the room rose! Everyone scrambled around trying to get the right ingredients and measurements, it reminded me of a cooking show that was poorly cast (in a hilarious way). The winning team would get a prize of a basket filled to the brim with sweets, coffee, and snacks to split among themselves. We were told (after we had completed making the dough) that the competition would be judged on how well our teams worked together, how the cookie tasted, felt, the moisture and the texture. The two judges were the hilarious duo of the eccentric executive chef and the head of Sodexo as well. They kept the energy in the room light and fun and really enhanced the overall experience. After the cookies baked in the oven for a few minutes, it was time for our judges to try. There were so many pans filled with cookies, each group had at least three, but some had four or five.
After our judges went to the back to try each of the teams cookies, they returned and gave us all a box to bring the cookies home for ourselves or to enjoy while we were there. After we all helped ourselves, they asked us to decide who won among ourselves based on our own opinions. The groups decided on the Swedish butter and orange jam thumbprints (my group, if I will add). The judges agreed with them, and our group decided to just pick a couple things from the basket and then let everyone else in the other groups pick out what they wanted as well. The overall experience was very fun and enjoyable and a great thing to be promoted on campus. I highly suggest going to the next cooking class UMass Boston offers to students!