Cooking Matters in the Community: Volunteer Spotlight

By Lexy Vorhies
Volunteer Blogger, Tarrant Area Food Bank

Everywhere you look in the local Fort Worth area, and in the 13 counties we serve, there are passionate volunteers always ready to lend a hand. We strive to recognize these talented and gracious volunteers here at Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB). One of these devoted people is Kimberly Talley, who started as a Course Assistant for Cooking Matters and now regularly volunteers as a Culinary Instructor.

Throughout the six-week course, participants learn basic nutrition, knife skills and how to shop and cook on a budget. Knowing that there are many people in the local community who are receiving information that is pertinent to their health and success is very important. It’s something that inspired Kimberly to be a part of Cooking Matters. Learn more about Kimberly in the interview below.

Where are you from?

I am from upstate New York, right outside of Rochester. I’m adopted, so I’m from Seoul, South Korea. My family, at the time, lived in New York. That’s where all our family lives—in the New England area. We moved to Austin when I was 10. [After high school] I moved to Fort Worth to go to Texas Christian University (TCU). I’ve stayed in Fort Worth ever since.

What is your culinary background?

My professional background is in journalism and Spanish. I’ve taken one-off cooking classes for very specific things, like making sushi was one of them. I also took a Tex-Mex cooking class at Central Market.

What are you doing to enhance your culinary background?

In January I’m going to the Culinary Institute of America’s satellite campus in San Antonio to take one of their full-fledged boot camps for the week, which is like cooking central. It breaks down everything from knife skills all the way to plating at fancy restaurants.

What do you do to stay prepared for your classes that you teach, and retain your skill set?

I typically cook a new recipe every week, or every couple of weeks, to continue to build my skill set. My husband loves it because he gets to try new foods. I’m currently looking into getting a Culinary Arts diploma. I’m exploring different programs because I really enjoy cooking and teaching people, so I would love to have an official credential to go with that.

Culinary Instructor Kimberly teaching students how to shop smart at the grocery store

How did you learn how to cook?

I learned to cook when I was at TCU. I was living in a college house with my roommates and was tired of eating ramen and eating like a college kid. I watched a lot of Food Network shows and tried to look at a lot of recipes online. Originally, it just helped me be more focused and aware of what I was eating and cooking for myself, but then it just became a hobby.

What made you in interested in becoming a Chef for Cooking Matters?

When I was at TCU, I was really involved in volunteering and service, so after I graduated I felt like that was something that I missed. I felt like I was missing that volunteering aspect because once you get into the real world and get a job that is 9 to 5, there is not a lot of time. I had done multiple searches online on “I really enjoy cooking” and “I would really love to teach people how to cook.” That’s how I found Cooking Matters. I had volunteered at TAFB before in Quality Control and some of those other opportunities with alumni and through school.

What’s your favorite part about volunteering for Cooking Matters?

I really like sharing my experiences with people and helping people, so it’s great being able to interact with students and show them a different side of cooking. Everybody thinks it’s expensive or hard (to cook healthy meals). I really break it down for them to show that them it’s easy. It’s something you could do every day or every week. You don’t have to eat fast food and processed food all the time. It’s great because I feel like every class that I’ve taught there is always this “aha” moment from people where they learn things they didn’t know, things that they never thought they could do.

What classes have you taught?

I’ve taught a range of classes. I’ve taught classes with kids. I’ve taught all Spanish classes, which was interesting since I’m a Spanish minor. I’ve also taught special needs classes. Last year, there were two classes for students with mild to severe autism and Down syndrome. They were Tarrant County College students with their caregivers, so that was a fun class. We just got done with a class at the AIDS Outreach Center, so those are people who have been diagnosed with HIV or are caregivers of someone that has HIV or AIDS. Getting to hear their personal stories and experiences has helped refine how I teach.

Why do you think the work that TAFB does is important for the greater community?

I think the classes teach a skill set that isn’t readily available to a lot of people. Tarrant Area Food Bank is making it readily available for anybody to participate. You just have to be willing to learn, be open-minded and have the drive to do it. They get groceries, learn how to make a meal every week, and learn basic nutrition. We walk them through how to buy groceries within their budget and show them things to look for nutrition-wise. There are just not a lot of opportunities where someone can say “I don’t know how to do this and I want to learn how to do this” and they can go out and do it for free.

Find out what Cooking Matters is all about by joining us for an upcoming training.

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