Looking at Life from Both Sides
Nutritionalist Earns Culinary Degree
“I’ve looked at life from both sides now,” is a line from a beautiful song by Judy Collins. It could also serve as a mantra for Sullivan instructor Cynthia Chandler. Chandler, a registered and licensed dietitian and certified nutritionalist, recently added another credential when she earned her Associate Degree on Culinary Arts.
“I think I am more excited about this then my master's degree from years ago,” Chandler stated, adding, “I began teaching culinary students at Sullivan in 2005. When I heard words like "mise en place" and "julienne" and "rondeau" floating around the I realized my students and I were not completely communicating! I was teaching them nutrition but they were learning cooking skills that I had never been taught.”
Chandler had been musing about expanding her education but had her doubts. “ Could I go back to school at this point in life...could I afford the fees attached ...could I be both a colleague and a student......would the chefs be comfortable with a colleague in their class...would I be comfortable? Could I be an effective teacher and a classmate?”
Quelling her doubts, she enrolled in 2008 and discovered a new calling. And her initial reason for entering the Culinary Arts program, while still important, took on a life of its own. “I became fascinated with the culinary world, “ Candler said. “I had studied biochemistry and nutrition for life and heart disease and so on and so on. I had learned to tell people what to eat and not eat but I now realized I knew nothing about showing someone how to eat.” The creativity of the chefs at Sullivan astounded me. I really saw what they were teaching. Their talents continue to amaze me. It soon became apparent that studying culinary arts is a natural for a registered dietitian who wants to help people know how to eat.”
Helping people to know how to eat is second nature to her. She and Culinary Chair, Chef Allen Akmon have been involved with the Body and Soul program. An iniative of the J. Graham Brown Center/Harriet B. Porter Cancer Education and Research Endowment, “Body and Soul” aims to cut chronic disease in the African-American community by changing eating habits and urging participants to add fruit and vegetables to diets while cutting fat. She has also done a series of seminars advocating “healthy soul food” through neighborhood churches.
But it’s not just adults whose eating habits she hopes to change. As part of Michelle O'Bama's Chef to Child program, she recently volunteered her expertise and demonstrated a healthy entrée to a class of children at Guttermuth grade school. Eventually she hopes to have her culinary nutrition students doing demos as part of the curriculum.
Chef Instructor Katie Payne, and Chandler have been involved with members of Jefferson County Public Schools’ nutrition community, with recipes for healthy and nutritious lunches during Derby Week.
A proponent of fresh, produce, Cynthia has also offered tips on buying fresh produce during a pilot supermarket tour organized by the American Farm Bureau’s Women's Leadership Committee. And, as a past national board member of the Vegetarian Nutrition Practice Group (VNDPG) Chandler worked on education initiatives regarding public about vegetarian nutrition and its relationship to disease management and prevention. She currently serves on the board of the Kentucky Dietetic Association and has chaired the annual meeting committee for 2011, putting together a cutting edge program to update the state's dietitians on current nutrition trends.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “I saw few die of hunger; of eating, a hundred thousand.” Now armed with her new degree in Culinary Arts, Chef Cynthia Chandler is doing her part to educate students and her community about the benefits of healthy eating.