CLEVELAND, Ohio — The University Hospitals Rainbow Center for Women & Children is visible from the test kitchen at the new Dave’s Market & Eatery in Midtown. That’s not by accident.
UH had a hand in the early development of the new Dave’s flagship store, at East 61st Street and Chester Avenue, and worked with the local chain to establish a community space that could be used for cooking demonstrations.
Now, UH hosts healthy cooking classes at Dave’s a few times a month, pairing a UH chef with one of the health system’s dietitians to teach local residents how to make healthier choices in the kitchen. The effort is part of a local and national movement to use food as medicine to enable healthier lifestyles and reduce levels of food insecurity.
“It really is building community and social support around healthy eating and around lifestyle changes,” said Lora Silver, a community outreach dietitian for the UH Otis Moss Jr. Health Center and the point person for the classes. “We really see these classes as meeting that need.”
On Thursday, UH put a celebrity twist on its standard cooking demonstrations by inviting chef Stephen Lewandowski, who heads a three-restaurant chain including Harlan Social, to lead the class.
Lewandowski, who is in town for UH’s annual Five Star Sensation culinary fundraiser for the UH Seidman Cancer Center this Saturday, taught a crowd of a dozen how to make a healthier — and tangier —version of the classic chicken and potato salad pairing: a Moroccan spiced chicken and a Mediterranean potato salad, two items he added to his restaurant’s menu a month ago.
“It is light. It’s flavorful. But when you stop to think about it, it’s chicken and potato salad,” Lewandowski told the crowd, while prepping food.
The chef picked out all of the ingredients used for the dishes in Dave’s, subbing out the broccoli rabe and fava beans he uses on the East Coast with kale, mustard greens and lima beans available in Cleveland.
“I wanted to show them you don’t have to follow the recipe. You can make what you want,” Lewandowski said. “It’s really all about what’s in season.”
He urged students to use fresh vegetables whenever possible to get the most nutrients, and offered tips on how to be budget-conscious shoppers. And, while he demonstrated techniques, Janet Kramer, a clinical dietitian at UH Rainbow Center for Women & Children, shared insight on the healthiness of the different ingredients.
“We really try to keep them pretty casual and informal so people want to come back and want to bring their family and friends, too,” Silver said.
Those in the class perched on stools at the counter of the teaching kitchen, asking for pointers and observing Lewandowski’s process.
“You can always ask questions,” said Larry Stochl, who lives nearby and has attended a few classes since he heard them advertised while shopping at Dave’s.
“I learned how to blanch,” said Kim Hammett of East Cleveland, who was grabbing coffee with her daughter, Kimyana, when they were invited to join the class.
Classes are free and open to the public. Both demonstration classes, like those offered by Lewandowski, and hands-on cooking classes are offered.
UH promotes the classes to patients at the Rainbow Center for Women & Children; at UH Otis Moss in Fairfax, where UH operates a food pantry, the Food for Life Market; and to the greater community through senior centers, community meetings and after-school programs.
“It’s an intervention,” Silver said.
Some of those who attend the classes are people who had a health scare with a heart attack or who are on the cusp of diabetes, Silver said. In many cases, food can act as medicine for those conditions.
“As dietitians, we’re often limited to an office setting or an outpatient health center setting,” Silver said. “We often feel limited. If we could just get into the kitchen or into the grocery store and give hands-on guidance, it could make a difference.”
Helen Hale of Cleveland said she doesn’t cook a lot but wants to learn new things.
“I’m spending all of this time exercising. I need to learn how to eat healthy, too,” said Hale, who regularly visits the recreation center in Fairfax and heard about the classes from a friend.