Just Like Grandma Used to Make – But Healthier: City Tech and Woodhull Collaborate on Cookbook

Brooklyn, NY — Can we still enjoy Grandma’s old-world dishes if they’re transformed into contemporary heart-healthy cuisine? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” thanks to the efforts of faculty and students at New York City College of Technology (City Tech) and doctors from Woodhull North Brooklyn Health Network.

The proof is in the recipes featured in a beautifully designed and meticulously compiled cookbook titled, Cooked to Perfection: Cherished Family Recipes That Are Good for You. The book, which is available through the City Tech Bookstore, features old family recipes donated by clients of 11 North Brooklyn senior centers.

“The cookbook project was a win-win situation for everyone — students, faculty, staff and the participating senior citizens,” states Professor Claire Stewart, who guided it from start to finish.

The hospital selected 80 recipes from the many submitted by the seniors, and then passed them along to Robert Minolfo, a nutritionist who is a City Tech adjunct professor. “Robert reworked the recipes, omitting many of the fats and limiting the ingredients to more nutritious substitutes,” noted Stewart.

“It was particularly wonderful to meet the seniors themselves,” she explained. “Many had stories of their favorite family foods and enjoyed sharing with us their happy memories of cooking and eating the dishes with their loved ones.

“Being given the responsibility of reinterpreting these recipes was an honor,” Stewart continued. “Nicole Gajadhar and Sandra Lowe-Stuart — the hospitality management students who tested the recipes with me — shared the goal of respecting their traditions. We carefully measured each item, added seasonings, corrected the amounts, and made the instructions more user-friendly and easier to read. Altogether, we ended up with a nice selection of different ethnic dishes — mostly Spanish, Polish and Jewish.”

The students found all aspects of the experience rewarding. Lowe-Stuart, for example, described the pride the seniors felt when they saw their dishes being served in the City Tech dining room. “It was a stirring, happy moment for me. I’m still grateful for having had the opportunity to be part of such an experience — one that was memorable not only for the seniors, but also for the young project participants.”

Gajadhar said, “This experience will be with me for a very long time. Each recipe had a story behind it — from different kitchens in different cultures. This was a wonderful start to my future in the culinary and hospitality industry.”

The tinkering with the recipes made Stewart a little nervous, but in the end there was no need to worry. “I was afraid that the contributors might feel insulted that their recipes had been altered, or that they would prefer their own preparations, but instead they were flattered, gracious and very enthusiastic.”

After testing the recipes last summer, the hospitality management team passed them on to Professor MaryAnn Biehl of City Tech’s advertising design and graphic arts department so that she and her Design Team class could create a design concept for the book.

Students submitted cover designs and sample interior spreads, including the photos among the recipes. Student Rebecca Collazzo’s design was chosen, and her teammates Carmen Calluchi, Amy Chen, Sparkle Johnson and Ji-Youn Yang worked throughout the fall and spring semesters to create the final version of the 120-page book.

Biehl’s colleague, Professor Paul D’Innocenzo and his Digital Image Production Team, including students Iqbal Ahmed, Joel Arbaje, Shomari Roberts and Shaliin Rodriguez-McLean, color corrected all of the photos used in the book.

While the idea for the book was originally hatched by Woodhull North Brooklyn Health Network as a means of teaching dietary lessons to diabetic and elderly patients, it is having a much larger reach. Six local restaurants have agreed to add the dishes to their menus. For example, Chimu’s Peruvian Cuisine, located at 482 Union Avenue, serves the Stuffed Red Snapper recipe.

”The evolution of the cookbook project is an inspiring example of how the resources of institutions can be interwoven to produce a substantial and beautiful result,” noted City Tech Dean of Professional Studies Barbara Grumet. “Our participating students and the senior citizens who originated the recipes can take pride in this accomplishment, which will bring joy to many in the community who use the recipes.”

The program got a big thumbs-up from Borough President Marty Markowitz, who suffered a heart attack in 2006. “The entire borough can learn from the City Tech/Woodhull project,” he said. “As I was growing up, we were taught to eat everything on our plate and, as a result, I got fatter and fatter. Sampling the food in Cooked to Perfection shows us that if the food tastes delicious and is healthier, then that’s the bottom line.”

Area seniors can get the book at any of the 11 senior centers in the North Brooklyn community. Copies will also be given to Woodhull patients with diet restrictions in the hospital’s Geriatric Wellness Center and diabetic patients in the Primary Care Clinic. In addition, the hospital will offer “Cooked to Perfection Health Bucks for $2.00 discounts on any Cooked to Perfection item offered at participating restaurants.

The cookbook is available for $20 through the City Tech Bookstore, 295 Adams Street, Downtown Brooklyn, 718.855.7339.

New York City College of Technology (City Tech) of The City University of New York (CUNY) is the largest public college of technology in New York State. Located at 300 Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn, the College enrolls nearly 15,000 students in 60 baccalaureate, associate and specialized certificate programs.

For more information, contact Michele Forsten, 718.260.5979.