RC restaurant owner ‘pays it forward’ with cooking lessons

ROGERS CITY – A Rogers City restaurant owner will give hands-on cooking lessons for low- or fixed-income adults, the first of its kind in Presque Isle County.

Starting on Monday, Scill’s Grill owner Scott Schroeder will teach “Cooking Matters,” an eight-week class stressing the components of proper nutrition and how to stretch food dollars, Michigan State University Extension SNAP-ED Program Instructor Patti Spinella said. She’s hoping to offer other classes, and is looking for involvement from other restaurant owners in the area.

“These are great, hands-on basics,” she said. “It’s nothing with extravagant spices, nothing like that, we just want to do good, down-home food.”

The class will cover the economic benefits of cooking at home, as well as food and knife safety, Schroeder said. He’ll show class participants how to break down a whole raw chicken from start to finish, and how to use it in a variety of dishes.

While it may seem contradictory for a restaurant owner to teach people how to cook for themselves, Schroeder said he’s doing it because he wants to get involved in the community that has been so supportive of his restaurant.

“It’s time to pay it forward, because I’ve had a lot of help in my life and I would like to do something nice for people who would like it,” he said.

By teaching people how to use whole foods to cook good meals, Schroeder said he hopes to help people eat more economically. He’s also hoping to guide class participants to a more healthy diet by getting them away from prepared foods. While there’s nothing wrong with them now and then when convenience is a must, it’s not good to base one’s diet on them.

“What gets me is when I’m in a grocery store and I see prepared foods, and that’s all I see in the basket itself,” he said. “I would like to see more fruits and vegetables and whole meats instead of the meals.”

“Cooking Matters” is part of Share Our Strengths No Kid Hungry campaign, Spinella said. The organization is dedicated to combating childhood hunger by linking kids with nutrition programs and teaching parents how to cook healthy meals, according to its website.

Gleaners Food Bank is partnering on the effort to help people improve their skills to take care of themselves, Spinella said.

Schroeder’s class is limited in size, and geared for low-income people, Spinella said. At least half of the participants have to be eligible for food stamps. The response was so positive, he had a waiting list of people looking to get in. He’s considering hosting the class again in the future, as his schedule allows.

Spinella also is hoping other Presque Isle County restaurant owners will take up the cause. Those who are interested can call her at 734-2168.

“We are always on the hunt for a professional chef or cook who’s willing to give their time,” she said.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at jtravis@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688.