Tag Archives: Teaching Kitchens

Building Confidence in the Kitchen

TK SAT-32 vegetables

TK SAT-11 Fennel“How many of you know what this is?” said Chef Woods, the instructor of the Samueli Institute’s Teaching Kitchen program at Joint Base San Antonio, as she held up a bulb of fennel.

A few tentative hands went up and the rest of the room was befuddled. Many of them had just unknowingly devoured a dish of poached tilapia with fennel and white beans. That is, after they had whipped out their iPhones to take photos of the beautiful healthy feast.

Learning about healthy ingredients as well as how to cook them, is part of a multi-faceted approach to lifestyle education that focuses on building culinary, nutrition, exercise and mindfulness skills to increase health, resilience and wellness.

Making Food Approachable

Expert chefs, one military and one civilian, make ingredients and cooking approachable. Participants learn the whys and hows behind previously intimidating cooking techniques like sauté, short-poach and en papillotte; dishes/ingredients like homemade stocks, aoli, court-bouillon and chia seeds; and kitchen tools like fish spatulas, cartouches and immersion blenders. Continue reading “Building Confidence in the Kitchen” »

Mind Tactics for Better Sleep, Nutrition and Performance

mindful eating TK

Can eating a single dried strawberry improve your overall health? As part of Samueli Institute’s Teaching Kitchen, a 12-week experiential learning program, service members and their spouses learned how eating consciously is part of a healthy lifestyle.

Too often, because of the hustle and bustle of daily life, food is consumed without even a thought. You eat what’s put in front of you without thought to whether you are hungry or when you become full.

This is especially true for the high-speed lives of service members and their families. Continue reading “Mind Tactics for Better Sleep, Nutrition and Performance” »

Teaching Skills for Life


What should sweating vegetables sound like? What does finished salmon feel like? Participants in the Teaching kitchen program now know thanks to the expert guidance of Chef Woods.

SSG Melissa Woods or Chef Woods, as she’s known in the kitchen, is the head culinary instructor for a 12-week Teaching Kitchen training program. The program, now in its second cohort of students is a multi-faceted approach to lifestyle education that focuses on building culinary, nutrition, exercise and mindfulness skills.

The program’s goal is to increase skills and confidence in the kitchen, support lifestyle changes, and improve the overall health and wellness of its participants.

Learning through Experience

We all know we should eat healthier, live healthier, stress less, sleep more, but what we don’t always know is HOW. HOW do you eat healthier without breaking the bank or overdosing on boring salads? What is my sleep quality?

The concept of the project is to look at all areas of a person’s life. Participants learn what keeps them from being healthy and what some small changes are in exercise, sleep, nutrition, cooking, and stress that will make a big impact in their challenge areas.

A Bit of Healthy Competition

Participants are active duty service members, about half of whom are participating with their spouses. Couples have an opportunity to learn together and grow as part of the program.

Camaraderie, shared experiences and healthy competition fuels the group. At a recent course a couple was laughing at the difference in their sleep time and quality. Pictures of dishes that participants had made at home flash across a screen in front of the classroom: green beans with touch of olive oil and lemon pepper; chipotle chocolate chili; vegetable barley soup; and roast chicken. Oohs and ahhs from the participants follow along with some back-slapping for motivation.

For some of the participants, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to focus on the idea of their health in a larger context. With the help of their expert instructors, the participants will leave the program armed with more than just recipes, but with confidence and know-how.

When asked if she needed help making quinoa, one participant said, “I don’t need a recipe. I’m a good chef now. I can do it.”

Cooking for Health in the Military


Samueli Institute, in collaboration with the office of the U.S. Army Surgeon General, embarked on a pilot project to investigate whether an integrated training approach involving culinary skills, nutritional science, behavioral coaching, mindfulness and exercise is feasible to implement and impactful in a military environment.

“If large numbers of possible recruits are ineligible to serve, and poor activity and nutrition discipline impacts the readiness of those that do enter military service, then the issue is not just a matter of National health; it is a matter of National security.” U.S. Army Surgeon General Lieutenant General Patricia D. Horoho

Continue reading “Cooking for Health in the Military” »