Changing Fear to Fun in the Organic Kitchen
by Donna Cohn Viertel
Eating healthy doesn’t have to take a lot of time, effort, money, or knowledge. Not after a class with certified nutrition counselor and whole foods chef, Holly Anne Shelowitz.
“People know it’s important to eat healthy,” explained Holly.
“A lot of people believe that they have no time to shop, cook, and clean,” she added.
“I teach low maintenance, totally delicious, healthy organic meals using easy recipes and simple ingredients,” she emphasized.
Holly, a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City has been teaching the fun of cooking for five years. She began her Nourishing Wisdom practice in 2000, providing nutrition counseling and teaching cooking classes at her office in Manhattan, and in her home in Woodstock. In 2003, she moved to Rosendale. Still commuting to her practice in the city, she was hired by United Parcel Service.
“A number of their employees were not in shape,” she explained.
“The company wanted me to teach their drivers how to eat healthy,” she added.
What was suppose to be a program for a few employees for a few sessions turned into a lot more.“Fifty guys showed up for my class,” said Holly.
The interest in the program was so vast that she ended up teaching a ten-month program at six different locations throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.
Holly began with lectures on healthy food choices and soon went on to cooking in the conference rooms. “I took out my camping stove and as I was delivering information on fiber, I made a ten grain cereal,” she explained. She even flipped eggs to promote eating a healthy protein breakfast.
Upon the completion of the program, Holly decided, no more commuting; she would focus on her practice locally. In Port Ewen, she began a lecture and cooking series for BOCES. She also started offering personal chef services.“I sent out emails to all of my clients and students explaining how I could shop, come to their home, and prepare healthful organic meals. The response was big, but many of her clients preferred that she cook off premise and then deliver the meal to their homes. She realized that she needed a permanent space to cook and teach classes.
By emailing Carl’s List, a community of artists and creative people who provide a listing of miscellaneous events and services over the Internet, ranging from houses for rent to yardwork needed, Holly found a commercial kitchen to rent in uptown Kingston.
In addition to her workspace, through Carl’s List, Holly received many suggestions to offer her classes at the local community centers.
“I was thrilled that there was such a way to find what I needed to stay local and share what I loved to do,” she emphasized. Holly contacted, Sandy Damon, youth and recreation director at the Marbletown Community Center. “She was so welcoming and excited,” explained Holly.
“She loved the idea of providing fun classes for the community to enjoy,” she added.
Holly’s Hands-On Cooking Classes use all organic ingredients and include a full dinner for $45.
“I took a continuing education class at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park,” said Holly.
“It was $165!” She added. “My classes are local, practical, and fun; creating fabulous meals that you may think would be complicated, but are actually user friendly with simple ingredients using simple language done simply fast!” She stated.
Holly begins each class with an introduction to the meal explaining why she chose the specific local seasonal ingredients in designing the recipe. She also goes over basic kitchen safety and sanitation.
The class, a maximum of fifteen people, then breaks up into teams of four to five to create the meal. Each team’s creativity is encouraged.
“It’s not a competition,” stressed Holly; “it’s a chance to meet new people in the community while you discover the joy of cooking in the kitchen.”
She’s with you every step of the way, providing demonstrations throughout the class as opportunities to learn different techniques present themselves; from peeling garlic to dicing an onion.
“You will easily be able to duplicate these meals at home,” she assured.
After all the preparation, each team sits down to eat.
“We enjoy the fruits of our labor,” proclaimed Holly.
She even puts the kick in the clean-up.
“Many people dread cooking because of the clean-up, that’s why I teach everyone to clean as you prepare.”
That way you are left with only the dishes to wash, not all the pots and pans. She puts on the music and the teams grove as they tackle the grime.
Holly’s Hands on Cooking Classes at the Marbletown Community Center in Stone Ridge begin on April 12 and run each Tuesday evening from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. until May 3. The four topics are: On the Table in 30 Minutes Flat!, Thai Flavors, Indian Flavors, and Quick Soups and Quickbreads. Register for all four classes and save $20. Register with a friend and save $5.00.
Holly also emphasized that she can also accommodate vegan and vegetarian diets.
“I encourage organic foods because they are healthful and fresher,” she explained.
“It’s not mandatory; you don’t have to only purchase your ingredients from a health food store,” she added.
“But remember, spending the money on good healthy food is part of a preventative health plan, like health insurance; spend it now, not in the doctor’s office later,” she warns.
As part of her nutrition counseling, Holly takes her clients on a health food tour of their health food store.
“I teach team all the different foods and condiments; taking away their fear of organic,” she emphasized.
Holly also serves on the steering committee of the Hudson Valley chapter of Slowfood, (as opposed to fastfood).
“It’s a world-wide movement that encourages cooking from scratch and supporting local agriculture,” she explained.