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Cooking Matters Michigan

Empowering families with the skills, confidence and knowledge to prepare healthy and affordable meals

Volunteer spotlight: Ina Cheatem


This month we're featuring one of our most hardworking volunteers, Ina Cheatem, who has her own healthy cooking and personal chef business. Since joining OFL, she has done an Eating Right (with 20 people!) and is signed up to do another Eating Right later this month. She took some time out from her busy schedule to answer a few questions from us. Also check out Ina's healthy dessert recipe for bread pudding below.

Q. Where do you live? A. I live in Novi, MI

Q. I know you’re originally from Germany. When did you arrive in the U.S.? What brought you here? A. I moved to the US almost 11 years ago. I met my American husband while he was stationed in Germany with the US Army at that time.

Q. What is your culinary background? A. I have been passionate about cooking healthy food for more than 15 years. I always enjoyed delighting other people with healthy food creations and my strong urge to feed others ultimately led me to open my own personal chef company. During high school and college in Bielefeld, Germany, I was first exposed to the culinary industry while working for multiple restaurants and hotels in various positions, including a position with a local catering leader that provided culinary services for small (5000 people) events.

Q. I just saw on Facebook that your business is 1 year old. Can you talk about the ups and downs of launching your own healthy cooking and personal chef business? Why did you decide to launch this specific type of business? A. I decided to open my own business last year, because I was unhappy with my "real" job and decided it was finally time to pursue my real passion - healthy cooking! People have always told me to make a business out of my love for cooking, and I did! Initially, things moved ahead very slowly, partially, because of the bad economy. However, this gave me the time I needed to set everything up properly (website, marketing materials, menus, agreements, etc) and slowly transition into my new venture, while still having the security of the regular job. It was a huge learning experience for me and mostly lots of fun, and maybe, sometimes, a little frustrating :) The best advise I can give to anyone that wants to turn their dream into reality is this: Follow your bliss and you will be surprised how many doors will open for you! Just be patient!

Q. When you have spare time, what do you like to do in terms of hobbies? A. I love to read and spend time with my kids. Also, I love to workout daily: boxing, running, weight training, yoga, cardio, rock climbing....anything that challenges my body!

Q. What drew you to OFL and why did you want to volunteer? A. As a strong advocate for healthy eating and good nutrition, I want to make a difference in my community by helping people eat and live better. My own experience with food insecurity and poverty is another reason why I am volunteering my time with OFL. It makes me happy to brighten someone’s day with cooking, even if it is just for the 2 hours a week that I am with them.

Q. You have completed an Eating Right with us. How did you like the experience? What did you like best about it? A. Loved the experience! My class was great! Close to 20 fun people. I enjoyed sharing some of my knowledge with the group and truly loved spending every minute with them.

Q. You went with seven other OFL Detroit chefs to Washington, D.C. for Chefs Move To Schools launch event in June. Can you share a little bit with us about how that day went, what you learned and your impressions of hundreds of chefs coming together for this cause? A. Wow, yes! That event was something else. Being part of such an important movement (ending childhood obesity) was a very powerful experience! In particular also because it was at the White House with the First Lady in attendance! The day was great. We attended a breakfast symposium in the morning before heading to the White House at noon. Before listening to Michelle Obama's speech, we had the pleasure of meeting some really inspiring chefs that have already made some HUGE advances in improving the school lunch system in their communities. Other interesting visitors and guest speakers included: The White House Assistant Chef, The Secretary of Education, celebrity chefs from the Food Network, and more.

Q. Can you tell us a little about your Chefs Move to Schools progress? What school are you working with? What stage are you at? A. Since my trip to DC, I have adopted the Novi Public School District. I am meeting with their Food Director this Friday (9/10) to discuss details of my involvement. Very excited to get started! First activities will probably focus on educational activities on the elementary school level, such as: food tastings, food demos, etc...we will take it from there.

Here is a budget-friendly healthy dessert recipe from Ina.

Harvest Bread Pudding By Ina Cheatem Serves 8-10

1 1/2 cups skim, soy, or almond milk 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted 4 egg whites 1/4 cup brown sugar 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon 1/4 tsp. ground allspice 1 tbsp. vanilla extract 12 slices high-fiber or whole wheat bread, in 1/2 inch cubes 2/3 cup raisins 1 large apple, seeded, peeled, and shredded

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. 2. Spray a 9X12 inch baking dish with cooking spray. 3. Combine all ingredients, except bread and raisins. Mix well. 4. Add bread and raisins and let stand for 5 min. so bread can soak in the wet mixture. 5. Spoon mix into baking dish and bake for 30-40 min. or until nicely browned. 6. Let sit for 10-15 min. before serving. 7. Enjoy :)