East Boston YMCA Test Kitchen Opens

The East Boston YMCA’s new Test Kitchen is up and running and offering free cooking classes specifically for senior citizens, aimed at bringing them all together for a fun, community cooking event.

The class located at the Y’s 54 Ashley St. site is taught by Vanessa Labranche, one of Project Bread’s chefs, and Meg Tallon, the Y’s kitchen services director and focuses on healthy and nutritious cooking.

“It also helps seniors dealing with specific dietary restrictions due to age,” said Y spokeswoman Joey Cuzzi. “The chefs can help each person alter recipes for any need, i.e. they’re not allowed sodium, they can use fresh lemon or different spices; people who are on blood thinners can’t eat dark, leafy green vegetables, so the chefs find alternatives for vegetable intake.”

The Test Kitchen is also hosting holiday food preparation classes. On Thursday, November 13 and Wednesday, November 19 the Test Kitchen will host a Thanksgiving Day Bootcamp. This class promises to take the worry and stress out of holiday entertaining with time saving techniques and delicious easy to prepare recipes like savory brioche stuffing and gratin of caramelized onion and sage with acorn squash .

The Test Kitchen programing is funded through a $25,000 grant from American Heart Association (AHA)

 Tallon, who has extensive experience as a trained chef, cooking instructor and in kitchen management, is developing a variety of partnerships with local health care and hunger prevention providers.

Tallon said aside from senior and holiday cooking programs, she and the Y will begin teaching families on budgets how to cook wholesome meals and how to stretch grocery budgets to prepare nutritious foods.

Tallon has also collected numerous cook books and will show families how to make native dishes a little healthier by adding fresh vegetables and seasonings that add more flavor with less saturated fat.

The Y will also be harvesting fresh produce from its own gardening programming for children at Ashley Street, which is being managed with Green City Growers of Boston.

The renovation of the old cafeteria at 54 Ashley Street into a Teaching Kitchen by the Y came about as the Y became more involved in managing summer food and after-school food programs and recognized what a huge need existed in the community for nutrition education and healthy cooking classes.

Also, many residents in East Boston are commuting to grocery stores outside the neighborhood to find higher-quality food at lower prices. East Boston ranks among neighborhoods with the least access to supermarkets. If forced to stay local, the options are less.

In the upcoming months the Y will be looking to recruit local chefs and restaurateurs to be able to provide a wide variety of specialty cooking classes, and develop food industry training programs for teens and under-employed adults.

For more information on the Y’s “Cooking for Life” programs, or to join the Y as a community partner in this effort, please contact Meg Tallon at [email protected].

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