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2131 Beaufait Street
Detroit, MI, 48207
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Cooking Matters Michigan

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

Volunteer Spotlight: Mary Gisslander

Rebecca Blauw

Future Chef Mary      Mary

Then...                                                     ... and now!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I have somewhat of an altruistic personality.  I believe in volunteering in the community - such as the American Red Cross and Historic Fort Wayne to name a few.  I believe that everyone, especially seniors, are entitled to the care, dignity, and wellbeing that they deserve.   I am currently employed in the healthcare field in the dietary department.  This was my goal since I decided to leave a "desk job".  Once I found out that experience was essential, even in a field which I had never worked, I decided to, as they say, "get educated".

What made you pursue a culinary career?

I wanted to work in the healthcare field (senior living, assisted living, nursing home etc.). I responded to an ad for a cook assistant in 2008.  The only requirement was "able to read a recipe".  I did not get the job due to inexperience in this type of setting.  So I entered the Culinary Arts Program at Macomb Community College.  I thought receiving the Prep Cook Certification (three classes - Sanitation, Culinary Techniques and Skills Development) would give me at least some experience working in a professional kitchen.  I was interested in the internship program.  I contacted Chef Nader at Ford Field and he agreed.  At this point, I declared Culinary Arts as my major.  Once I did that, completing the program was inevitable.

What is your fondest food memory? 

Cooking with my dad ...... was becoming a Chef predetermined?

How did you first get involved with Cooking Matters?

While taking the Culinary Techniques course in 2009, Chef Hollingsworth informed us of Gleaners Community Food Bank which was involved with Cooking Matters.  I contacted Gleaners, attended their training class, completed the background checks, and volunteered for my first class.

What is the best thing about volunteering with us?

Meeting all the participants and learning as much from them as I am able to teach them from what I've learned from my formal education.  Life experiences far exceed book learning.

What do you do in your spare time? 

I've let a lot of my house chores lapse while continuing my education and now I'm spending as much time as I can getting my house in order.  I was interested in volunteering with the Rising Stars Academy but then I started a new career in the healthcare field. So I have, unfortunately, let my volunteerism lapse temporarily.  Once I get myself in order, I’ll be better able to service others.  I still make time for Cooking Matters because “cooking matters”.  I think getting involved with the meal programs in the schools is also very important.  So much to do, so little time !

Do you have a favorite recipe to share with us?

Prepare some rice. In a sauté pan, cook some diced chicken breast, add the rice, add some chicken stock, then add some kale.

Don't forget the seasonings....... I experiment with just about anything in my pantry except salt and black pepper !

It’s not really a “recipe” but is very easy to prepare with as many variations as you can think of just by changing the protein, grain, vegetable, and liquid.  More liquid will result in more of a soup like consistency.

Protein - fish, pork, ground sausage, turkey, beef, and even various canned beans.

Grains - rice such as brown, basmati, or jasmine; quinoa, couscous and other pasta.

Vegetables – fresh, frozen or canned.

Liquids – chicken, beef, or vegetable stocks -  low sodium.

As we say in Cooking Matters, adjust any recipe to what you have in your pantry and make it your own.

Mary and congressman conyers

Mary and Congressman Conyers, who visited her last Cooking Matters class!