Cook It Up! With Aparna Rae


By: Lena Guevara

Do you like to cook, but are tired of the same basic recipes? You should check out the Cook It Up! Class at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center every Monday at 3:30 pm. Cook It Up is a cooking class based on instinct and creativity rather then recipes.

The instructor of this basic cooking skills program is Aparna Rae. Raised by a chef and pastry chef, she teaches to instill an independent excitement in youth about cooking. Aparna started the Cook It Up class in April 14, 2010, and has since been teaching youth not only how to cook intuitively but also how to use fresh, locally, and even vegetarian ingredients.

I myself attended last week’s class and learned a lot myself. I found that It really focuses on being independent and trying new things. This week was about warm salads, now i myself don’t personally have a whole lot of green in my diet, but she guides you on how to make it work. Now i thought a warm salad meant you heat it up, maybe cook it, but really all it is is you add something to a normal salad that’s hot like a vegetable stir fry maybe or a fried egg. It gives flavor and individuality to your salad and makes it versatile.

When I asked Aparna what she wanted her youth to take from this class, she said, “I want them to be good cooks for their families, because cooking shows how you care for someone, and its good for the soul.” In the kitchen, I saw that not only were the youth having fun, they were also picking up good kitchen etiquette and working together. As they create in the kitchen, Aparna teaches them step by step, cutting, what ingredients they’re using, and how to explore new possibilities in the kitchen. When they are done with their creations they all get to sit down and do the best part which I’m sure we all enjoy: EAT!

Cook It Up is much more then food and fun: it’s a program that teaches a skill that youth are able to walk away with and use everyday for the rest of their lives, and further be excited and driven by it. This class is definitely something to check out, and I can’t wait to see what I learn next.