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Cooking Matters Michigan

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

Volunteer spotlight: Mary Stallworth

dorothy hernandez

As an 8-year-old budding chef, Mary Stallworth can remember sitting in the kitchen watching her granddad “bust out the dinner” every Sunday. She wasn’t allowed to cook and her kitchen duties entailed cleaning up. Then her grandfather fell ill and cooking shifted over to her grandmother, who “couldn’t stand cooking,” says Mary. But now she was allowed to cook and saw firsthand the difference eating fresh foods made for her grandfather, who was a diabetic and battled cancer.

“My grandmother would juice for him, go to Eastern Market every week … (the fresh food) kept him alive another 10 years,” Mary says.

The early days of cooking marked the beginning of a lifelong passion for cooking and food. “I loved cooking; I’ve seen what food can do especially if it’s the right food.”

At 14, she started working at a sushi restaurant with her mom, who is from Japan. “The only jobs she could get were at Japanese-owned restaurants to support us (Mary and her brother).” Mary started bussing tables at the restaurant, eventually working at different kitchens to hone and perfect her craft. She currently works at Carriera’s in Dearborn Heights, not too far from the Cooking Matters for Adults class she’s teaching at 1st Assembly of God.

In class, she is always emphasizing the importance of eating fresh, healthy foods and always has ideas on how to get the most out of ingredients. For example, her recipe for 4 Bean Salad is a colorful salad packed with veggies that she shared with the 1st Assembly of God participants. She showed them how to make a quick veggie stock to flavor the fresh green beans and to use the red pepper seeds for an extra spice kick.

She created the recipe for the farmers market at her church after getting a grant to teach people in her community how to work with fresh produce and to offer a healthier alternative to processed foods, addressing issue of accessibility in her neighborhood.

“People don’t know what to do with veggies,” she says, so she came up with the salad. The recipe was well received and she’s been invited to three different churches to demonstrate the recipe.

When asked what she loves best about teaching Cooking Matters, she enjoys helping others become empowered with the skills and knowledge to cook healthy at home.

“It’s sweet to see the lights go off in their head, when they go ‘Of course!’” when talking about healthy cooking, Marys says. “It’s nice to see people get it.”

The experience of teaching classes (she has done three) has been “huge” and “opened her eyes.” Teaching has inspired her to share her knowledge and experience with other budding chefs.

“Every chef wants to open their own restaurant but I’ve been thinking more about (starting her own) culinary school and training,” says Mary.

The participants she has impacted in classes have already been fortunate to learn from Mary, and who knows: Maybe we’ll see her with her own school someday!

Thanks for all you do for Cooking Matters, Mary!

Here is her recipe for 4 Bean Salad. Even admitted veggie haters ate it up; there was not a single bean leftover.

Four Bean Salad is a great way to incorporate lean, inexpensive protein and whole grains while using up seasonal produce such as fresh green beans.

4 Bean Salad By Mary Stallworth serves 10

Ingredients 2 lbs. fresh green beans 1 can black beans 1 can kidney beans 1 can navy beans 3 cups small whole grain pasta 1 red pepper 1 medium red onion 1 bunch green onion 1 clove garlic 1 cup fresh ginger 1 cup fresh parsley 1/2 cup fresh basil 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 1/2 cup red wine vinegar Dried oregano to taste Dried thyme to taste Salt and pepper

Directions 1. Prepare pasta according to package directions. Cover and set inside refrigerator to chill. 2. Clean and prepare green beans. Bring salted pot of water to a boil. Cook green beans in boiling water for 4 - 7 min. or until the beans turn bright green. Shock the beans in ice water. Drain and set aside. 3. Clean tops of cans and open and drain in a colander. Set aside. 4. Clean and cut fresh vegetables to bite size salad pieces. Set aside 5. Chop herbs and spices and mix them together. Set aside. 6. In a large mixing bowl add the green beans, canned beans and pasta. Mix together gently trying not to break up any of the beans. Next add the vegetables and sprinkle on the herbs. 7. In a separate bowl, mix together the vinegar, oil, salt, pepper and herbs. 8. Toss the dressing and vegetables together.

Chef's notes: - Add any of your favorite fresh, canned or frozen vegetables. - Add any of your favorite beans. They can be canned, fresh or dry. - For extra flavor sprinkle on Parmesan cheese, or extra herbs. - Boil your vegetables and pasta in a flavored stock. - Use canned green beans if fresh green beans are not available.