Cup Noodles and Easy Mac no longer need be the staples of the collegiate diet. Weekly cooking classes hosted in Poly Canyon Village help students learn how to do more than just boil water.

Sophomores living in Poly Canyon Village can participate in "Cooking in the Canyon" classes to help familiarize them with cooking after living in the dorms. Anieca Ayler – Mustang Daily

“Cooking in the Canyon” is a part of the Sophomore Success Program, a support organization for sophomores as they transition from their first year of college. Coordinator of student development at Poly Canyon Village Kari George said “Cooking in the Canyon” is one of the program’s events that urges students to be more independent.

“One of the main purposes is to help teach (students) life skills and introduce healthy habits,” George said.

Every week, Poly Canyon community advisers organize and facilitate the classes, which teach basic cooking skills and provide students with new recipes. Recipe difficulty ranges from beginning to intermediate and have included foods such as grilled sandwiches, cheesecake, cookie dough, baked ziti, taco salad and enchiladas.

Lessons are also sometimes led by special guests who either volunteer or are invited by graduate assistant at Poly Canyon Village, Cecilia Macchiavelli. Past guests have included Campus Dining chefs, faculty and representatives of the Gender Equity Center, the Pride Center and international programs, whose classes are usually accompanied by information about the organization or slideshows.

For example, the exchange program’s lesson was Italian-themed, featuring a PowerPoint presentation about Italy and recipes for pizza, caprese salad, fruit salad and a dessert bread with authentic Italian chocolate paste.

But, the lessons remain very basic even with outside instructors.

“We’re never going to have turkey and gravy and mashed potatoes,” Macchiavelli said. “It’s practical food.”

Typically, 15 to 30 students attend the cooking classes, but advisers have seen upward of 50 participants, depending on which recipes are made, George said. This quarter, the cheesecake class brought in more students than the average. And while some classes see a much smaller turnout, most are well-attended.

Last Wednesday’s class, hosted by the Gender Equity Center, saw only a handful of students, but those who did attend were pleased with a surplus of the featured recipe — pasta salad.

Civil engineering sophomore Job Jao was one of the few attendees, as well as a regular at Cooking in the Canyon, and said he is first and foremost lured by the class’ free food, but sees the practicality in the cooking lessons.

“(The lessons) are helpful because we put the recipes on our fridge,” Jao said. “We’ve made a couple of them again.”

Cooking in the Canyon started when Cerro Vista apartments opened in 2003 as a joint collaboration between University Housing and campus partners, said Emily Sandoval, Learning Community Coordinator for the Sophomore Success Program. It was and is still called Learn to Cook at Cerro Vista, but underwent a name change when the program expanded to Poly Canyon Village in 2008.

In addition to encouraging self-sufficiency, the cooking classes are designed to teach healthy options and give tips to prevent fire alarms due to mishaps while cooking on the stove, which Sandoval said she thinks has been particularly successful.

During its first year, Poly Canyon Village experienced frequent fire alarms. Many students do not know the proper procedures when their apartments filled with smoke, said community advisor Stephanie Freese. This would often set off the entire building’s alarm, forcing every student within that building to evacuate.

As a result, the first few classes of Cooking in the Canyon focus on preventing fire alarms.

“We’re educating them on how to open windows, turn on fans and not open their doors to the hallway,” Freese said.

Freese said she has seen a definite drop in the number of alarms going off throughout the year.

Other activities part of the Sophomore Success Program include are weekly fitness classes and academic programs like Sophomore Advising Week and Junior Jumpstart Series, both annual events that support sophomores in their academic endeavors, Sandoval said.

“The (program) addresses the academic planning, community and involvement needs of second year students, and facilitates their transition into a mature and responsible living environment,” Sandoval said.

Cooking in the Canyon is free to all students every Wednesday at 7 p.m in the conference room behind Canyon Post.

“It was first started so that students could do something practical, get together with other students and build a community,” Macchiavelli said. “It’s one of our most attended programs — our residents enjoy it.”

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