Musician/Chef leads the class in cooking

Musician and cook Mark Norwood leads cooking classes to teach adults about nutrition and saving money.

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

Musician and cook Mark Norwood leads cooking classes to teach adults about nutrition and saving money.

As a young adult, Mark Norwood envisioned a culinary career around his love of cooking. But the muse of music was stronger, and after three years working in the food industry, he went back to school for a music degree and taught that subject for 27 years in the DeKalb County school system while doing the occasional catering job on the side.

Now recently retired, the 57-year-old organist and pianist is back to teaching, but this time he’s leading adult classes on the basics of cooking. He volunteers his expertise through Cooking Matters, a program of the St. Vincent de Paul Georgia and Open Hand Atlanta.

“I love going out into the community,” he said. “For the last year, I’ve been teaching on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a curriculum that lasts six weeks. We go over the lessons with a cooking demonstration, then we cook and have a meal together.”

During a two-hour session at St. Vincent’s teaching kitchen on Chamblee Tucker Road, participants might learn how to cut vegetables, slice meats or sauté – whatever the recipe of the day calls for. Along with offering hands-on experience, the program is designed to improve skills and nutritional knowledge so participants learn ways to eat healthy on a budget.

Norwood works out of a book with about 60 recipes, many of which are vegetarian or vegan. The runaway favorite: turkey burgers.

“Many of these people have never had a turkey burger,” said Norwood. “They also love the ratatouille recipe that has a lot of vegetables: yellow squash, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, onion and garlic in one dish. I’ve also had people say they never had eggplant before.”

But his students are often most surprised by how simple the recipes are.

“You can do them in a skillet or in one pot,” said Norwood. “Many people aren’t used to doing a lot of cooking, and they don’t want to be in the kitchen a long time. Most of these recipes can be done in 20 minutes.”

At the same time, the recipes are made with a budget in mind.

“Our budget is $1.60 per participant,” said Norwood. “The recipes are designed for a family of four. But with the cost of food now, that’s really tough.”

Along with cooking at St. Vincent, Norwood volunteers in the food bank at his church, Bible Way Ministries in Atlanta. It’s another way he can connect with people.

“That’s what it’s all about for me,” he said. “I love being in the community.”

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