West Chester students cook up recipes with developmentally disabled young adults

WEST CHESTER, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Every Wednesday afternoon, eight young adults with developmental disabilities log onto Zoom, and they get cooking.

They call themselves the Ram Chefs after the West Chester University mascot. Each chef is paired with a West Chester student majoring in nutrition who guides them through the skills it takes to cook up a delicious dish.

Prior to the pandemic, the young adults served a church supper at the United Methodist Church of West Chester with the aid of WCU associate nutrition professor, Dr. Jeannie Subach.

Because of Covid-19, those visits had to stop, but Dr. Subach wanted to keep the Ram Chefs connected. Weekly online conversations evolved into virtual cooking classes.

"We have seen the progression of their independence," Subach said. "They make dinner for their families."

"It makes me feel that I can do anything in a kitchen. You can be so creative cooking anything," said class participant Olivia Reihl of Exton, Pennsylvania.

Each has a favorite recipe.

"This thing that we cooked last night. This chicken marsala with rice", said Julia Brown from Merion Station, Pennsylvania.

She added that the chicken was "delicious."

"We would like to package this program as a model for other universities so they can service people in their community," Subach added.

It's a program serving up food, friendship, and most of all: fun.

"Very happy," said Tom Corum of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. "Very like, wow. I can like cook it very good, and I can look at the recipe and do it myself sometimes."

The West Chester nutrition students get a lot out of the program as well.

They experience working with young adults with disabilities, and they can practice their techniques teaching cooking classes virtually.

The Ram Chefs are currently working on their second cookbook featuring their recipes.
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