Tonawanda News

February 11, 2013

Chef Kevin wants to help families return to the dinner table

By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Chef Kevin Labin wants to get the Tonawandas cooking at home more often, and in case that’s not your thing, he wants to be the one to teach you.

“It doesn’t have to take all day to prepare a meal that’s good,” he said of his intention to promote sharing a dinner with family. “I want people to have a little more confidence doing that and really get people back to the dinner table.”

Labin’s day job is to teach the youngsters this integral life skill at the Harkness Career and Technical Center in Cheektowaga, but lately he’s been tackling the adults with a series of cooking classes at the YWCA of the Tonawandas in North Tonawanda. 

The City of Tonawanda resident said he was interested in giving back to the community by offering adult education classes in the Tonawandas. He first started looking for opportunities in the school districts, but stumbled across the YWCA as an option.

Labin believes what he has to offer appeals to the organization’s goals of empowering women (and men) and fostering confidence and self-esteem.

The YWCA agreed and he began his hands-on cooking classes around Thanksgiving last year. 

Before he could even teach his first class on preparing appetizers, he realized he already had a problem. A welcome one. He had to open up a new section of the class a week later because just too many people signed up. 

His second class teaching ravioli from scratch was also a success, though he didn’t have to hold a repeat performance. He said he doesn’t mind holding second classes and will keep it as an option for Tuesday’s class on stir fry. 

Even though it may be a full house during cooking lessons at the YWCA location on Tremont Street, director of programs Nicole Ennett said it’s always a relaxing, enjoyable evening that now even includes wine pairings.

“Everybody’s always laughing and the whole house smells delicious,” she said.

Labin said he plans to focus on healthy eating for Tuesday’s lesson on stir fry — it was the one request he’s gotten from previous participants most. 

Stir fry, he said, is a great way to explore how people can use vegetables in a way that might be a “little more exciting.”

“I wanted to incorporate the concept of stir fry as a nice transition into healthy cooking. You can make a lot of good choices in a stir fry without adding a lot of fat or calories and maintaining the nutritional value of the vegetables,” Labin said.

And the best part about stir fry is how diverse it can be. 

“You can change the flavors of it using proteins, sauces and vegetables,” he said. “It tastes a little bit different every single time you make it.”

Ennett said she hopes that as perhaps new groups of people are encouraged to come to the YWCA for events like Labin’s cooking classes, more and more might consider becoming a member of the YWCA. 

“The classes are open to the public,” she said. “It’s a goodwill community thing just to get people in our doors to say ‘Hi, we’re here and here’s the different things we offer.’ “

Tuesday’s stir fry class is from 6 to 8:30 p.m. and costs $8 per person. Those interested should call 692-5580 to reserve a spot by Monday, and should bring a container for any leftovers and a wine glass.

The next cooking class is scheduled for March 12.

IF YOU GO • WHAT: Cooking lessons with Chef Kevin • WHEN: 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday • WHERE: YWCA of the Tonawandas, 49 Tremont St., North Tonawanda • COST: $8 • RESERVATIONS: Call 692-5580

Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116.