Click on the link below to contribute to Vision World Foundation!
NEWS from The Cooking Without Looking TV ShowCooking Without Looking TV Show/Podcast Food Tasting at Art Cafe, Saturday, Oct. 5; 7-10p.m. at: The Motivational Edge 1550 NW 36th Street Miami, FL (Allapattah)33142 Chef Orlando Ramirez, Owner/Operator, Blind Monkey Catering along with his daughter, Samantha, will prepare Pastelon (Dominican lasagna). Cooking Without Looking TV Show Host Annette Watkins and her son, Patrick, will present the tasting to a lucky audience. The Art Cafe is FREE to the public, and tickets are available on Eventbrite.com https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-art-cafe-tickets-69384277241 # # # For more information, please call: Marvin Weeks 786.344.3268 Ceiba Chavez 305.988.4355 Ren’ee Rentmeester 305.200.9104
Teaming up on the Mission of Universal Understanding of People who are Blind/Visually Impaired to increase independence and prosperity, The League of the Friends of the Blind (LOFOB) http://www.lofob.org.za, Cape Town, South Africa, will join forces with The Cooking Without Looking TV Show.
Heidi Volkwijn, Manager of Services to Youth and Adults program at the organization, says, “We offer a wide range of rehabilitation services which include cooking and home management. I have clients who are visually impaired and are very passionate about cooking and baking. We are open to collaborating with you on the show.”
“It’s a beautiful thing to share our cultures, and ideas to improve the lives of People who are Blind/Visually Impaired all around the world!” says Ren’ee Rentmeester, Creator/Executive Producer of The Cooking Without Looking TV Show. “Students will prepare popular South African fare while speaking frankly about their own Blindness/Vision Impairment. We will also share similarities, and differences of working with people with vision challenges between the two nations.
The Cooking Without Looking TV Show is the ONLY TV Show which features People who are Blind/Visually Impaired.
Enjoy recipes and cooking tips from Blind/Visually Impaired/Low Vision People who appear on our show. View past shows at https://cookingwithoutlookingtv.wordpress.com
How can a TV Show help people who are Blind/Visually Impaired?
Many of us only know about blindness if it is in our family, or, we ourselves are blind. That leaves the rest of the population not knowing about it; fearing it; or just hanging on to antiquated ideas about People Who Are Blind/Visually Impaired.TV actually shows what life is like for some Blind/Visually Impaired People.
On our Cooking Without Looking TV Show, we invite REAL People who just happen to be visually challenged to prepare their favorite recipe.There we show the skills and the challenges of people, and we also show that the challenges can be met and overcome by training.
Cooking Without Looking TV Show is not just for blind people. It’s that blind people are included. Inclusion helps foster understanding. Understanding helps employers and others get over the old myths we were all raised about blindness.
Blindness is a challenge enough, but it is one that we can show to a large scale audience, and make them understand that it’s not the blindness itself that is the disability. It is the thoughts of others, and ourselves that can truly be disabling.Inclusion leads to Understanding which leads to Independence. That’s the Mission of The Cooking Without Looking TV Show.
Meet Our Team
Cooking without Looking: A Cooking Show with Blind and Visually Impaired Hosts by The American Foundation for the Blind
In Memoriam…Chef Don White…
The call came about 10 years ago. “Is this Renee Rentmeester?” I said, ‘Yes’. “Well, I’ve been stalking you,” came the Massachusetts-sounding voice. “This is Chef Don White and I heard about your show, and I want to be a part of it.”
A mutual friend of ours, also blind, sent him my way. That was the start of one of those most amazing and unearthly friendships of a lifetime.
He, like our other hosts, Annette Watkins and Allen Preston, had an over-powering energy and willing to go anywhere at any time to show people that Blind/Visually Impaired People can cook!
And cook, he did. He was a classically trained chef who was taught by some of the greatest European chefs.
One night to impress a new client, Don cooked an amazing dinner which included lamb. As Don was going to take the lamb out of the oven, he dropped it. Everyone was in the other room waiting. I put my finger to my lips and told him not to say anything. Together, we put the meat back in the pot. The 3 second plus rule. No one ever knew the difference.
Don was one of those people you call when you feel a little unbalanced. He was the calm that your storm needed. He was a Spiritualist who helped me hone my own skills so that I could help others. The Spiritualist part is using an innate ultra sensitivity to live beyond the here and now.
There were times when I was really stumped I would ask him what was going to happen next. But, there’s an unwritten rule that as a Spiritualist you can’t give the full answer even if you know it because you have to allow for free will.
He was part God, part Moses, and part Ernest Hemingway…bigger than life…never believing that he would ever go away. I believe he is with us still.
He could tell you how many lifetimes you lived together. He told me we had been together in all of our lifetimes. He’d update me on the new lifetimes family members were living on another plane.
So, this afternoon, Don and I will spend our time together. I know he’s here still. He’ll probably send me telepathic ideas about the show, and cooking tips. Oh, and I’m sure he’ll give me plenty of clues that he is around. He didn’t like being ignored.
And, I’m sure they will be eating well in Heaven tonight.
Title: Cooking without Looking—A short series about a live cooking show and its blind and visually impaired hosts and chef. A lot of fun and scrumptious learning lie ahead. Let’s get started! We know you’re going to enjoy this interesting team of culinary experts.
Intro: Dear Readers, We have had an exceptionally great year of Our Stories, stories about successful people who are blind or visually impaired doing the jobs and other things they love. This time we are veering off our normal path just a little to present you with a short series about some very interesting folks in Florida who do a live TV show called “Cooking Without Looking”. The series will introduce you to Renee Rentmeester, the founder, creator and executive producer of the program, as well as Allen Preston and Annette Watkins, the amiable hosts of the show. We will also introduce you to Don White, the chef of the program. You will learn many fun and interesting things from this team and even get a few holiday tips and recipes along with links to videos of the show.
CareerConnect: Renee, thank you for talking with us about this wonderful program. Our first question for you is where did you come up with the idea of doing a program like this?
Renee: I came up with the idea for “Cooking without Looking” on January 5, 2001 in Miami. I had worked in TV since I was 17 years old, and over the years had sat on many boards; at one point, six at one time!
I wanted to create a personal way of giving back. I wanted it to be something that helped everyone, no matter what religion, race, age, economic status, etc. After much research I found that blindness was my cause. TV was the tool which I chose because it was what I know best, and it creates large scale change and promotes understanding of a group of people which, many don’t really know a lot about.
Since I was not blind and no one in my family or friend circles where blind, I had more research to do so I turned to blind listservs online which were primarily made up of blind people. I discovered what many of the issues were by reading their comments. I also found that the cooking listservs for the blind were the most popular. At that point, I found blind chef(s) in the area, a PBS station to air the piece and, the rest is history.
CareerConnect: Where did you find your talented staff?
Each one is a special story.
I met Allen Preston, one of our two hosts, at a Braille Club meeting in West Palm Beach, where he was president of the club at the time.
Annette Watkins was a pharmaceutical sales executive when we met. Her friend Celia Chacon, a blind caterer (who passed away last year), told me about her, and we put her on the show as co-host. Annette was also a friend of our first sponsor, John Palmer at Magnifying America.
Our chef, Don White, is a friend of a friend who heard about us and sought us out. He was a blind restaurant owner and classically trained professional chef.
Now we’re all together, and we have a lot of laughs through the whole process of creating and producing the shows, as well as other things we get into to promote opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired.
Do you or your staff do speaking engagements or other blindness advocacy activities? Examples?
Oh yes, we are all advocates and visit schools and speak to students as well as business groups and other non-profits’ functions.
Also, we are featured at area wine and food festivals and perform cooking demonstrations. We’re appearing November 15 at the Boca Raton Wine and Food Festival. We often perform cooking demonstrations at Macy’s as well.
CareerConnect: Was it a hard sell to find funding? Who helped support this idea and how can advertisers or others contribute?
It was a difficult sell because it sort of sounds counter intuitive, a TV show with blind people. But, through research, I found that Blind people enjoy TV 2 percent more than sighted people because it’s a large source of entertainment when they are not able to drive.
Another reason funding was difficult is that many people thought it was ONLY for the blind; some still do. But that’s incorrect. It’s a show of inclusion, one that’s a cooking show which happens to feature people who are blind doing the cooking and the hosting. Everyone gets great recipes, and learn amazing cooking tips. But, on top of that, we learn about eye care health, and hopeful research which can help all of us with our vision.
John Palmer of Magnifying America gave us our first year of advertising funds (13 shows); and Dr. Marc Gannon of the Low Vision Institute gave us seed money for our pilot program. He also appears on many of our shows during our ‘Macular Moment’ segment.
We are currently looking for advertisers for 20 shows which we will air on the Cooking Channel (58 Million homes) nationally. The advertising funds not only cover our production costs but also go to our Vision World Foundation which we use to provide services for folks who are blind/visually impaired/low vision. This is the only TV show where, when you advertise, you are actually doing good for someone while you market your product or service.
CareerConnect: Anything else you’d like to share about where you’ve been and where you are going?
Renee: Yes. We have created a “Cooking Without Looking” summer bootcamp for blind/visually impaired people who want to work professionally in the kitchen or even open their own catering business. It’s at Florida International University School of Hospitality, and participants receive a certificate of completion.
Also, we are starting entrepreneurship courses for blind/visually impaired people who want to start their own businesses. We are doing that with FIU as well.
This year we started a dining in the dark fundraiser called, “Lights in the Night” where we honor people who provide blindness care in other organizations. We believe that those of us who work with people who are blind/visually impaired should work together because we’re all here for the same purpose, and our services are varied and complementary.
The Contact: Cooking without Looking; Phone Number: 305.200.9104
Cooking without Looking—Part 2 with Co-Host, Allen Preston
Introduction: Funny how some of the best jobs just seem to fall in your lap. Or, do they? Follow the links in Allen Preston’s chain of experiences and activities to see how he ended up with one of the most enjoyable jobs he’s ever had! See if you can spot the one thing he did that linked him to becoming the popular co-host of Cooking without Looking.
The Story: My name is Allen Preston. I was born in Illinois and raised by my grandparents in an affluent suburb of Toronto. Then from age 10, I was farm raised in north central Minnesota. Two years of trade school after high school and a BS from the University of Minnesota and suddenly I was a teacher! I taught for about the same amount of time as I went to school. Then I moved to Florida where I worked for a local government agency for a few years before I was pressured into an early retirement. I am sure that my eyesight had something to do with my early retirement but they couldn’t say that because Division of Blind services was involved with me getting the job. So officially on paper I retired for other reasons. Neither my immediate supervisor or the department head had a college degree and I did. I believe this was an underlying factor that made them uncomfortable and because of ADA they felt pressured to hire me. I realize this sounds a bit strange, but you’d have to understand the “good old boy” network of county government in the 80’s.
Allen and his dog guide, Links
The work ethic I was raised with made me feel guilty about being paid and not working. But, ironically, this is when I truly started enjoying my life because I started volunteering. I got involved with the local American Council of the Blind (ACB) chapter which led to a volunteer job running an organization called The Braille Club.
To this day I have spent my life volunteering my time to advocate for people who are blind and severely visually impaired, as well as for those with other disabilities. I am active with the local Lions Club, on the Board of Directors of our local Lighthouse for the Blind and occasionally do fund raising presentations for Leader Dogs. All this has led to too many interesting adventures to go into in this one article but, suffice it to say it has been good.
Today I have slowed down a bit. Arthritis and other age related stuff made it difficult to maintain my house so I sold it and bought an apartment in a “senior community” in south Florida where my Leader Dog, Links, and I enjoy our morning walks and evenings with friends and neighbors. This article, however, is the story about how I got involved with Cooking without Looking so let’s move on.
One day a bunch of years ago at an ACB meeting a lady named Renee was asking for blind and severely visually impaired volunteers to be part of the studio audience at a filming of Cooking Without Looking. I told her I couldn’t attend but she should come to the Braille Club and ask the members. The day Renee came to the Braille Club, a lady I was fond of was also there. She said she would like to go and knew someone who would drive. On the day of the filming at what I call “the fancy kitchen place” my friend and I were roaming around looking at kitchen stuff during a break in the filming. All of a sudden a bright light appeared in my eyes. ( I still have some vision and could see the light.) I was asked a question about my guide dog and I responded with humor saying something like, “Among other things he is a great help with clean up when I am cooking.”
Later, Renee asked me if I would like to be on the show. I got the impression I would be a guest chef. I told her that I was not much of a cook. She said, “Don’t worry about it. We will figure something out.” I asked Renee several times over the next few weeks if I needed to have a recipe or something and she just kept saying, “Don’t worry about it.”
The day of our taping arrived and I showed up at the public broadcasting studio and was handed a script in some giant font size that I could read as I walked through the door. This was the first I knew I was one of the co-hosts of Cooking Without Looking. I was hustled into the makeup room where I first met Annette and Celia. We had a few minutes to memorize and practice our script while we got “made up.” After makeup we were lined up behind a countertop with cameras, microphones, wires and all kinds of stuff on the other side. My guide dog didn’t want me to go through all these wires and cables but we made it. All was well until they turned the filming lights on and, flash! All I could see was “BRIGHT!” Out of the brightness came a voice that said “look at the camera with the red light on and read the teleprompter”. Obviously no one had told the production crew that all three of us were blind. We all laughed so hard that it took several takes to do our opening. I enjoyed the taping of every show and now I am proud to be part of the team that helps encourage other visually impaired people to maintain their independence. Thank you Renee for that opportunity and, thank you, God, for the ability to do it.
Accommodations I use on a daily basis are a computer with an enhancement program called “ZoomText.” The program magnifies, manipulates colors so I can see everything (I have no color perception so this is very handy), and it reads to me. My screen is a 32-inch monitor that I keep close, about 1 foot away from my face. I watch television on a 50 inch screen. I have a CCTV that I use frequently and I use talking books from the Library of Congress. Low-tech magnifiers fill in the gaps for restaurants and other places I need to read when not at home.
My best and most valuable assistive technology device, however, is my guide dog Links. I trust my life with him when I leave the house and at home he provides lots of “warm fuzzies” unlike this hard, cold computer and other electronic devices. (Smile.)
In ending if I may paraphrase a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt I will say, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. Today is God’s gift, enjoy the present.” I would like to add, ” Learn from the past, plan for the future, and enjoy the present that God has given us.”
The Contact: Cooking without Looking; Phone Number: 305.200.9104
Cooking without Looking—Part 3 with Co-Host Annette Watkins
The Story: Hello! My name is Annette Watkins and I am Co-Host of Cooking Without Looking, as well as host of Segment 3 of our show, Food for Thought. And sometimes I even cook a healthy dish myself!
My day begins by arriving at the studio, meeting up with my co-workers and getting make-up for the cameras. Then I am given our script for the show in Large Print and I meet the guests we will have on that day before we shoot anything to give them an opportunity to ask if they have anything they want us to ask them that would be of interest to the viewers.
We are all inclusive working with people who are blind or visually impaired as well as with those who aren’t. This includes the staff and crew, lighting, sound, director, people to be interviewed and those cooking on the show, and we mingle with the audience. During this interaction the crew always takes a tight shot of the audience looking for expressions and applause.
John Palmer, mentioned in Renee’s and Allen’s stories too, told them about me, and I joined the group since I was visually impaired. The connection is that I had originally gotten visually accessible equipment from John, who was the show’s first sponsor. Since I was a pharmaceutical executive in my previous career I had the needed delivery skills from speaking to doctors and interviewing them. These were the two biggest things that helped me get this job.
Annette Watkins, Cooking without Looking Co-host
For me to successfully do my work a few modifications and accommodations have been necessary but this is true for all workers with disabilities. The ones I use due to vision loss are large print scripts and for script practice or memorization I rely on Zoom Text. Neither I nor any of the other staff can see the camera crew, so instead of using hand signals, they use their voices to let us know which camera to look towards.
There are so many things I like about my job. I like getting in front of the camera, I like interviewing, putting our guests at ease and bringing out the hidden treasures in them by asking the right questions. I love leading; you might say I am a natural born leader. Believe it or not, I have even more fun working with someone who’s cooking because I get to use humor, and my memory.
On the other hand, job related things I could do without is the “hurry up and wait” aspect of working with cameras and TV. This waiting business often makes for a long day but that’s just part of the package. And, of course, lugging the food from here to there is never fun but that, too, has to be done. Here’s my most personal issue that you will probably get a chuckle out of but it’s true; during the show I am always paranoid that my hair doesn’t look right to be on camera. Sigh… oh, well! (Smile.)
The Contact: Cooking without Looking; Phone Number: 305.200.9104
My advice to a person who is trying to decide whether this job would be good or bad for them to have is to get details. Maybe you have the necessary education or talent or skills but learning about lesser known details of a particular job is your best bet. For example, were you aware of how much “wait time” there is? Another example for doing good interviews is to try to learn as much as you can about the person you are going to interview. Then practice the script and just have fun.
Cooking without Looking—Part 4 with Don White, Chef and Co-Executive Producer
Intro: Often success is not noticed until someone else tells you that you have achieved it. To succeed, Don White says, “Your focus should be on doing what you are doing without being bothered with others telling you that you cannot, nor that you are not doing things the right way. I say, “Bah, humbug!” Read more about Don White, a classically trained blind Chef and Co-Executive Producer of Cooking Without Looking.
The Story: My basic philosophy is to focus on myself and only pay attention to the people who know what they are doing and continue to practice. Right now I am the Co-Executive Producer of the Cooking Without Looking Program as well as Chef of the show. From the age of about 5 years old I was taught by my great-grandmother Greene. She was a full-blooded Indian from Mattawamkeag, Maine, an ancient native American village which borrowed its name from the river at whose mouth it is located. She was the head cook for the Great Northern Lumber Company. She taught me to cook on open fire pits as well as a wood-burning stove, making homemade bread and biscuits and various foods for lumberjacks and others. The following years took me to college where I worked at various restaurants and explored life. During this time I had sight.
In April 1972 I entered the US Army with my focus on mathematics but I continued to have my love affair with cooking and serving people. When the Army sent me to Europe I made arrangements to work in schools and local restaurants to learn cooking. It was a total thrill to me. I learned to develop a sense of completeness. My whole life now centered around cooking and the preparation of food. The countries I learned in were Germany, England, France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Greece, and Israel. I delved into many more types of food, its preparation and other experimentation, as well as combining of techniques.
Chef Don White
After coming back to the United States, in spite of my culinary experiences in Europe and the Middle East, I ran into many different roadblocks finding work, so other than doing research on computers, my solution was to attend a culinary institute to get a formal education. During my schooling I added all my prior experiences to develop my own style. There were no limits to what I cooked or baked or made as confections. I learned a long time ago not to limit the possibilities of what I can do.
As far as what I do as the Co-Executive Producer for the show, it is doing anything that needs doing. In order to put shows together I help arrange for funding, create recipes, cook onstage, and talk with lots of different people. Anyone who can fund us, sponsor us in other ways, or is just plain interested in what we do gets my attention. There is not one aspect of my position that I do not like.
Oh, by the way, I am also writing a historical novel and a book on food preparation from before the 1500s until today, and I’m thoroughly enjoying every aspect of it. The research alone is so very enthralling and addictive.
Anyway, the people I work with are from every walk of life. From people who have food allergies to people who will only eat their own type of food, no matter what the nationality.
How I became the Co-Executive Producer is an unusual tale. I went blind on October 1, 2005, from an eye operation combined with macular degeneration and aneurysms behind my eyes. Due to going blind, it was more difficult to get a job. With my determination not to let anything stop me from anything I wanted to do, I had been at the time attending a school to help me with my blindness compensatory skills and one of the teachers told me about a radio show and TV show called Cooking Without Looking, so I searched for the show and who had owned it. It is my ultimate luck that I was introduced to Renee Rentmeester. I had done a live show for her in Orlando, Florida. I started as a host for the show, and after doing many things, Renee made me the Co-Executive Producer. To me there is not a thing I do not like about the job.
There are so many things that I can say about learning to cook that empowers people to believe in themselves and all that they do. Once a person does for themselves it opens avenues to progressing on a personal level and allows them to live a fuller life as they so wish. The main thing I have learned to live by is to keep myself open to an avenue that I enjoy and dreamed of doing. This self-appointed rule has worked for me. I hope it will help you, too.
Before I go I’d like to share a couple of recipes with all of AFB CareerConnect’s readers, users, and mentors, so here goes! Holidays seem to come up with lots of leftovers so here are some things unique, delicious, and fun to make during your visits and celebrations.
First, we are going to make fudge from plain leftover mashed potatoes! Oh, yes, mashed potatoes!
Mashed Potato Fudge
- 3 oz unsweetened chocolate
- 4 tbs unsalted buter
- 1 lb confectioners sugar
- 1/2 cup mashed potatoes
- 2 teaspoons milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Place chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook stirring occasionally until melted, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove bowl from pan and let cool slightly. Stir in sugar, potatoes, milk, vanilla, and salt until dough forms. Using hands, knead dough briefly in bowl until smooth. Press into a greased 8-inch square pan; sprinkle with the chopped walnuts. Chill fudge one (1) hour before cutting into squares.
Hope this brings a satisfying sweet as well as a use for leftovers.
Homemade Multi-grain Hot Breakfast Cereal
- 1/2 pound of salt pork
- 6 cups of water
- 1 cup hominy grits
- 1 cup oat meal
- 1 tablespoon cream of wheat
- 1 tablespoon of Malt-O-Meal
- 1 tablespoon of ground cornmeal
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground white pepper
Take 1/2 pound of pre-sliced salt pork and slice into what is called lardons or lardoons, which is better known as match sticks. Place in a heavy 3 to 5 quart pan. An enamel coated cast iron pan is your best bet. Enameled cast-iron is by far my favorite pan to use for most cooking. I preheat the pan to at least medium temperature then, add the match stick slices of salt pork. Render the fat and leave crisp little match sticks that turn golden brown. Also leave the rendered pork oil. Add the water and let come to a rolling boil. You will notice that there will be froth on the top. This should not bother you, just let it work and cook. Most of the froth shall disappear. Now add the Grits. (If you use 5 minute Grits they will be cooked in 5 minutes. If you use regular grits they take a complete hour to cook. For the holidays I recommend the 5 minute grits.) Cook for 3 minutes.
Then add the 1 minute oatmeal, Malt-O-Meal, cream of wheat, and corn meal. Cook for 1 minute more. As it thickened add 1/3 cup of heavy cream.
Here is a secret that most people do not know, especially if they are on a low sodium diet. Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground white pepper. It makes flavors pop without adding salt in anything you cook. This mixture should be a thicker, creamy texture. If it isn’t, add some more of the meals or oatmeal to thicken.
Always taste what you cook to insure you have the flavor profile you are looking for. This can be eaten in a bowl as a cereal or it can also top homemade biscuits. This is great at anytime and more so on the holidays.
The Contact: Cooking without Looking; Phone Number: 305.200.9104
Orly Shamir, Account Executive;
Community Outreach Manager
Students help others with “Cooking Without Looking” videos
The overall goal was to assess the students’ mastery of the concepts and to build a library of videos that covered the major cooking techniques and that could be accessed by a person with limited vision.
By Kathryn Coulibaly
Educators are always looking for innovative ways to connect their students to the material they are teaching. As the lead teacher for Family and Consumer Science, Industrial Arts, Business, and Technology at Roxbury High School, Laura Richards knew that the skills she was teaching her students would benefit them in many ways. Her culinary arts classes give students a better understanding of how to prepare food, helping them make better nutritional choices. In addition, culinary arts exposes them to different foods and cultures and helps them understand food costs and how to prepare nourishing but affordable foods.
Richards had been teaching Culinary Arts I for 12 years, but it was her first year teaching Culinary Arts II and she wanted to find a meaningful culminating project for the unit on cooking methods.
“In the past, students were encouraged to make a Tasty Video, which is a short video that shows how to prepare a recipe or a specific culinary technique,” Richards said. “Tasty Videos usually do not have narration although some of the videos have music playing or words that pop up on the screen. A Tasty Video is reliant on a person’s ability to see. I felt strongly that my students could handle a bigger challenge.”
Richards knows something about meeting challenges. Her five-year-old son Nathan has a vision condition called Brown’s syndrome, which limits his field of vision and makes navigating a new environment difficult.
“As I thought of how my son navigates his world, the idea of creating a cooking video for someone who was vision impaired or completely blind came to me,” Richards said. “So I started to do some research, and I learned that Christine Ha, who won MasterChef a few years ago, is legally blind.”
MasterChef is a competition on the Fox television network in which amateur cooks are mentored by professional chefs through a series of culinary challenges to win the title of MasterChef and a $250,000 prize.
“I remember watching a video of her first challenge on the show,” Richards said. “She explained how she uses her other senses to create dishes, and it occurred to me that what separates average chefs from exceptional chefs is their ability to tap into all of their senses. Christine Ha’s disability was also her superpower in the kitchen, and it’s what eventually led her to win the MasterChef competition that season.”
I think that even without the incredible bonus of a trip to South Africa, our students really embraced the spirit of this project and that’s something they will carry with them for life.
Creating accessible cooking demonstrations
Richards and her students began researching and watching videos of how Ha cooked: how she had to learn to hear what boiling water sounded like, what perfectly sweated onions smelled like, and how she could work safely in the kitchen. Ha’s mastery and fluidity in the kitchen mesmerized them and left the students in awe.
As part of their research, Richards came across a television show called “Cooking Without Looking,” a program that makes cooking safe and accessible to people with low vision or who are blind.
“The Cooking Without Looking episodes are an incredible resource for my students,” Richards said. “As my students began their Cooking Without Looking projects, they each chose a cooking technique to demonstrate in their video. The overall goal was to assess the students’ mastery of the concepts and to build a library of videos that covered the major cooking techniques and that could be accessed by a person with limited vision.”
While the students worked on their projects, Richards reached out to the creator and executive producer of “Cooking Without Looking” Ren’ee Rentmeester, to tell her about the project and to thank her for the inspiring show.
Rentmeester was thrilled to learn of the students’ projects and offered to feature each of them on the next season of the show, its first with FoodyTV.com, which can be viewed on various online video delivery services. The episodes would be filmed in South Africa and would focus on how blind and visually impaired people throughout the world cook.
Rentmeester and Richards agreed to post the students’ videos on the “Cooking Without Looking” Facebook page and invite visitors to vote for the best video. The creators of the video that received the most votes would be invited to travel with the show to South Africa and be part of the filming.
“The students were so excited about the opportunity,” Richards said. “But I think half of them thought I was joking when I told them that the winning group would have an all-expense paid trip to South Africa, courtesy of ‘Cooking Without Looking!’”
Laura Richards, center, with two of her culinary students, Senam Atadja and Julia Fedorko.
A winning team
In June 2018 the winning video was selected: “Macaroni and Cheeseburger,” prepared by Roxbury High School Seniors Donovan Brady, Emma Karnitsky, Rachel Lessig and Charlie Rinaldi.
“The competition was extremely tough,” Rentmeester said. “All of the entries were excellent and captured the spirit of our show, which is to create an understanding of how people who are blind live on an everyday basis.
“We expect to begin filming in Cape Town, South Africa within the next several months,” Rentmeester continued. “In addition to being the creator and executive producer of the show, Rentmeester is also the founder and president of Vision World Foundation, which receives a portion of the show’s advertising revenue to provide free services to people who are blind or visually impaired.
“This was an amazing opportunity for our students, and I’m so thrilled that it all came together like this,” Richards said. “But I think that even without the incredible bonus of a trip to South Africa, our students really embraced the spirit of this project and that’s something they will carry with them for life.”
Richards will be carrying her passion for education to a new position with the Hillsborough School District, where she will be furthering her interest using students’ perceived disabilities as superpowers.
Watch the award-winning cooking video, Macaroni and Cheeseburger.
Kathryn Coulibaly is the associate editor of the NJEA Review and provides content and support to njea.org. Login to Contact Kathryn Coulibaly
“Good” for Sale…Purchase our Cooking Without Looking TV Show “Goods” and help us do “Good” for Blind/Visually Impaired People
Buy your very own Cooking Without Looking TV Show Apron TODAY! Two large side pockets help you keep your culinary tools handy!
Do you know what time it is? It’s time to COOK with the Exclusive Cooking Without Looking TV Show Clock! You’ll be counting the minutes until you get into the kitchen, and prepare one of your mouth-watering burgers or even Beef Bourguignon. Be the talk of your town (well, maybe just your neighborhood) with this Cooking Without Looking TV Show Clock.
Cheers to YOU as you sip a refreshing libation out of your COOL Cooking Without Looking TV Show Glass. Whether it’s a sweet tea or Long Island Ice Tea, you will enjoy the special feeling you get when you drink something delightful out of this glass.
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