By Mina Kim
In a stainless-steel teaching kitchen deep within the old stone walls of the elite Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, acclaimed chef Lars Kronmark pulls a piece of fat from the cavity of a raw, whole chicken.
“A big chunk of fat like that, it doesn’t really hurt to leave it in there,” Kronmark said. “But in the end of the day, that’s still going to be too much fat.”
It looks like a standard cooking class. But this is an unusual class for an unusual group of students. It’s a healthy cooking “boot camp” designed for wounded veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with a goal of helping veterans connect with each other and learn to eat healthier.
Six military veterans and their spouses dressed in white chef’s coats and hats watch Kronmark closely. His healthy cooking techniques are welcome tips to the group of 12, including veteran James McQuoid, who lives with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I’m of the larger variety,” McQuoid said. “A couple years ago, I didn’t care about my health. I was very reclusive and what not, but through therapy and stuff I’ve come to realize — I’ve got a younger child — I want to be around a bit longer, and I’m really not helping myself at all.”
Federal officials estimate more than 70 percent of the veterans receiving care in the VA are overweight or obese. McQuoid’s doctor recommended he get more omega-3 fatty acids by eating fish instead of fatty meats.
“But I didn’t know how to cook fish,” McQuoid said. “After being here though, I can cook fish!”
The four-day boot camp is a program of the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit that serves injured veterans transitioning to civilian life. The camp’s days begin with lectures on subjects like the physiology of taste and end with vets and their partners preparing dishes for dinner. Today’s menu includes roast chicken with lemon and rosemary, Baja fish tacos, and pork loin cooked in a pomegranate glaze. Continue reading