Wake Forest chef works with HCHS students

Published 4:15 pm Thursday, May 23, 2019

When we think of a college student on Christmas break, we might picture a slumbering young adult, resting and relaxing after completing a tough semester of study. Mareesa Ahmad, a Harlan native studying at Wake Forest University, decided to utilize her break as an opportunity to pay it forward.

Ahmad teamed with Heather Maggard, the culinary instructor at the Harlan County High School, to provide a one-of-a-kind experience for the students. When the two got together and started planning, they decided that a complete meal made entirely from scratch would be their goal. Ahmad volunteered two days prior to the Christmas holiday and helped to guide the students through four new dishes — a hearty meatloaf, green beans sautéed with garlic and butter, macaroni and cheddar cheese and completely-from-scratch fudge brownies.

The students and Ahmad bonded quickly and the challenge to create a complete meal from scratch was accomplished. She was so impressed with the students’ respectful manners, positive attitudes and their willingness to learn that she offered to return following Christmas in order to teach the students to make homemade pasta from flour, egg and olive oil. The students were thrilled that she was planning to return and were teeming with pride as they created their own pasta.

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Many of the students confessed that they didn’t even know it was possible to make homemade pasta. The students stood a little taller, with their shoulders slightly back as they beamed with pride following the lesson.

“I know that Mareesa not only taught them cooking skills. She also improved their confidence,” Maggard said.

When asked why cooking was such an important part of her life, Ahmad said she learned early.

“I always had a passion for cooking since I was a child, and I got that passion from my parents,” she said.

Ahmad is an accomplished young chef and serves on The Kids Advisory Board for Chop Chop Magazine, a publication dedicated to healthy cooking and eating for our young people. Ahmad is available to provide cooking lessons during her college breaks, and she works with children and adults. If you or your child would like cooking lessons this summer, you can e-mail her at ahmam17@wfu.edu to schedule an appointment.