MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Adaptive Cooking Classes are now being offered by the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association (ORHMA) to assist persons with disabilities to improve their ability to cook.

On April 4, the ORHMA London Region celebrated the completion of a six-week series of pilot Adaptive Cooking Classes for 15 students of all ages, many in wheelchairs. The series was held at the Best Western Lamplighter Inn and led by executive chef Nick Gucanin Gazibaric. Joined by the ORHMA Board of Directors, members and staff, students and their supporters gave special thanks to the Lamplighter Inn and Gucanin Gazibaric, occupational therapists who assisted in the classes, and McCormick Foods, for its financial support. McCormick made a donation to have a transportable kitchen module constructed.

Based on the success of the London pilot, a second series of classes has been launched at the Delta Toronto East Hotel, at 2035 Kennedy Rd., from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. starting Tuesday April 9 and running weekly every Tuesday. The series concludes with a graduation party on Thursday May 16. Leading the classes will be executive chef Romel Griarte.
Referring to the London program, Fatima Finnegan, ORHMA’s director of Corporate Marketing and Development, commented, “Chef Nick led a series of exciting cooking classes that demonstrated easy affordable recipes adapted to the varying challenges faced by people with disabilities who want to learn to cook. With the help of an occupational therapist, we were able to introduce a variety of readily available devices and gadgets which allowed for greater success and achievements within the kitchen.”

She added, “He (chef Gucanin Gazibaric) has been a wonderful instructor and as much as he says that he has been teaching about cooking and health, he says that the students too have taught him a lot about accessibility and being around those with disabilities.”
The ORHMA had difficulty finding a kitchen that would accommodate 15 students, who are mainly in wheelchairs and working in home kitchens that are typically small. Modular kitchen unit sponsor, McCormick Foods made a donation to have the demo kitchen made. Work was done locally in London and the entire kitchen can now dismount and be put the up in minutes. It has a water pump with sink, separate butane burner and a convection oven. An overhanging mirror makes it easier for students to see the cooking process. Adjustable shelving in the front and sides allows for volunteers to come up and assist the chef with the cooking.

Finnegan concluded, “Emphasis is being given to healthy eating habits available within a very low budget. Our teaching demonstrates how various readily available devices or gadgets can be utilized, even with disabilities, to allow for success and achievements within the kitchen. We will provide the opportunity for them to use these various adaptive devices successfully in the classroom, and encourage their use at home. In addition, we teach those who must depend on support staff to prepare foods for them, how to guide or instruct their help to prepare healthy, cost effective foods for them.”

OHMA plans to produce a cookbook based on the classroom experience. In addition to recipes, it will serve as a guide to the availability of affordable gadgets and devices being used, all of which are readily available at local stores including Walmart and Canadian Tire.  


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