Pantry-to-Plate: Chico State students attend free culinary workshop


Pantry To Plate students begin prepping their first meal. Photograph by Nicholas Stamper.

The Tehama Kitchen was bustling Feb. 7 with 16 eager students awaiting the first of a five-part culinary education series presented and provided by Chico Basic Needs and Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry

The Pantry To Plate initiative states its goals are “For beginners to learn the basics of cooking, learn to prepare nutritious food from Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry and to create meals on a budget, one pot meals and more.” 

Each event is held on Tuesdays in Tehama 118 from 4-6 p.m. Students who attend can expect to receive free food at the end of each class, and students who commit to all five classes will receive a kitchen set with new pans, cutlery and other culinary tools. 

The room is large, with four main cooking areas complete with counters, stove tops and cooking utensils. Various types of produce and pantry items such as tomato sauce, onions, flour and parmesan cheese were stacked in abundance at the instructor’s table. Keto and vegan options were also available.

Natalie Derose spoke about the initiative’s history, its benefits to students as well as challenges the workshop series has faced since the pandemic.

Derose explained the purpose of the program isn’t just feeding hungry students, but teaching them life skills.

 “We’re just trying to be a resource for the Basic Needs program and the students … Our target audience is basic cooks who are not familiar with or experience in the kitchen,” Derose said. “It’s a great opportunity to get them introduced to cooking and what exactly they can do in the kitchen.”

Prior to the workshop, Ellen Frye and Daisy Mendoza described their reason for seeking out the Pantry to Plate experience.

“I’m here because I live off of Trader Joe’s salads and wraps, and I wanted to learn how to become more independent in the kitchen,” Frye said. 

“I feel like I make a lot of stuff, but I hate cooking. I’m hoping these classes help me learn to love cooking,” Mendoza added. 

The first class began with a quick icebreaker game so the students could familiarize themselves with each other before they were slowly instructed about the food they would be making. As an easy first-time meal, they were shown how to make a pizza almost entirely from scratch.  It wasn’t long before the students broke into groups and began crafting their own pizzas at their given work stations. 

After the two-hour cooking session, each group had finished a pizza and the students were left to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

For more information on the Chico State Basic Needs Project, go here. For more information on Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry, go here.

Nicholas Stamper can be reached at [email protected].