Voices and aromas fill the air as nine community members work to prepare the themed meal of the week: southern style collard greens, deviled eggs and stew. 

The number of people who show up to this weekly cooking class often varies along with the theme, but each class adapts to every situation in order to get everyone involved and learning. 

The participants strive not only to make a fully cooked meal to share at the end of the night, but also to create healthier lifestyles. 

Want to get involved in the class? 

Cost: $5

Location: United Methodist Church on 1711 W. Jackson St. 

When: 5:30-7:30 p.m. every Tuesday until Feb. 27

Contact Emily Aker at aker_girl123@hotmail.com for more information on the class.

Emily Aker, who has been a chef for over eight years, began offering this cooking class in October of 2017 in the hopes of sharing her love of cooking with others. Since then, her classes have grown to include a teaching assistant, three regular attendees and many one-time visitors. 

“With these classes, I am really hoping to show people that cooking quality food from scratch is much easier than often perceived,” Aker said. “Anyone who can read a recipe can cook.”

Aker began cooking with her grandmother at the age of five, and from there she said she “naturally gravitated toward the kitchen” by taking advanced cooking classes in high school, studying recipes to learn different styles and watching Food Network in her free time. 

In a similar way, 10-year-old Jameson Zabel, one of the three regular attendees of the class, began cooking at age 3 with her mother. To her, the cooking class is a way to bond with her mom and allows her to focus on something other than school work one day a week. 

“I play soccer, and I work really hard in school, so sometimes it was really hard for my mom and I to find time together,” Zabel said. “But when she heard about this class, we both thought it would be a great idea, and it has been a ton of fun.”

Each class is designed to teach students new skills while also practicing previously learned skills. 

“A lot of the skills and tips that I use at home are ones that I never thought would be important,” said Chris Parks, a regular cooking class attendee. “I live on my own and I didn’t have much cooking experience growing up, so I think this class really makes me more rounded.” 

One class that stands out to Parks in particular was a night when the power went out. The meal’s theme was Italian, and they were cooking pasta with garlic bread. 

“That was a great experience because we all had to adapt,” Parks said. “We made do with what we had, and we still came out with a great meal. It taught us how to think on our feet and deal with unexpected outcomes.”

The last cooking class offered will be on Feb. 27, as Aker must then prepare for the reopening of her business, Normal City Food Truck, but she hopes classes will be able to pick up again later this year.  

“I hope that I am making an impact on my students, and that they carry their skills they learn into day-to-day life,” said Aker. “I am not naturally a teacher, but we have all worked together to figure out what works best for us, and I hope that everyone is learning something.”  

To join in on a cooking class, check Normal City Food Truck's Facebook page for details. 

Contact Tier Morrow with comments at tkmorrow@bsu.edu