Cooking classes to make university life a healthy one

Teens learn to cook nourishing meals before leaving home for university.

From left, Cameron Ballard, Jack Kelbrick and Max Van Der Velden, pupils at Gems World Academy, take a cooking class. Pawan Singh / The National
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DUBAI // Teenagers, cooking and wholesome food is not a combination that goes together very often.

But a group of young people has recently discovered that the transition from home to university life can be a healthy one, when you can fend for yourself in the kitchen.

With just one final school year to go until they leave for studies in the UK, sixth-form pupils at Gems World Academy have been taking part in specially organised cooking classes with professional chef Olivia Manner.

The idea for the classes came from Claire Kelbrick, mother of 17-year-old Jack. The British mother hoped that by learning how to whip up homemade dishes including meatballs, burgers, spaghetti bolognese, omelettes, chicken pasta and baked fish, her son would be less tempted to rely on takeaways.

“It’s really important you know how to cook when you go to university, that you can buy your ingredients and cook so much cheaper,” she said. “I don’t think people realise how much cheaper and healthier it is to cook yourself.”

Jack admitted that his first real spell in the kitchen involved a lot more hard work than he realised. “I didn’t know anything and would probably have been going out every night. This is helping me learn new things. It’s harder than I thought. Once you know the basics, you realise you can apply it to so many things, the meat or the fish, and make so many dishes.”

Healthy food has been the norm come meal time in the house but, as her children have been getting older, Ms Kelbrick admitted it became harder to control what they ate. Knowing they would be able to cook for themselves rather than eating junk food is reassuring.

“As they get older they are hungry all the time and you have to change what you make for snacks, for example. They get hungry and want to eat immediately.”

Another cooking student, Cameron Ballard, 17, said he felt more independent since learning to cope in the kitchen. “I don’t have to wait for people to come home and feed me,” he said.

Max Van Der Velden, 16, agreed. He will also be starting university in the UK next year. “Living on your own, it’s important to be able to cook so you don’t have to order things every day,” he said. “You need to eat to live. It’s good to be able to cook and know a range of things we can cook so it doesn’t get boring.”

His mother, Anne, said she was proud that her son had learnt an important skill that would help him cope when he is away from home. “I’m really happy he’s learning to cook. It’s a life skill.”

Ms Manner, the chef, said the boys now know exactly what they are eating, since learning how to prepare meals from scratch.

“When you cook from scratch, you know everything that’s gone into what you’re eating. It’s much healthier

“The boys will need lots of good food to keep them mentally alert so the main thing is teaching them a variety of meals.”

mswan@thenational.ae