McDaniel chef gives away tricks of the trade

January 26, 2010

If anyone is qualified to offer tips for dorm cooking, it’s McDaniel’s executive chef, Kevin Werner. He makes 10,000 meals a week. And that doesn’t count the five meals a week the Baltimore Culinary Institute graduate prepares for his family.

“I spent $70 on these groceries at Safeway,” Werner said, pointing to a tabletop dotted with packaged rice and beans, beef strips, fresh green beans, stir-fry sauce, diced peppers and “no cry” diced onions, tortilla wraps, chicken broth and a lot more. “There are at least 10 meals here.”  

Supermarkets have an endless selection of food that takes little preparation, he said, during “Cooking Tricks You Can Use in the Residence Halls,” a Jan Term workshop for students.

Executive chef Kevin Werner tells sophomore Jessica Oros that inexpensive store-brand vodka sauce is just as good as the brand name sauce.

“When wraps first came out, I said they were just a fad and would be gone in a year,” said Werner, who has been the chef at hotels, resorts and another college in Boca Raton, Fla., before coming to McDaniel with the college’s food service provider, Sodexo. “Now I love them – they’re so versatile. I counted nine kinds of tortillas in the supermarket and unlimited choices in what to wrap in them – you never have to have the same tortilla twice.”

Werner’s tips require only one kind of appliance – a microwave oven. He explained that 75 percent of dorm fires started with cooking, so toaster ovens, burners and similar appliances with heating elements are not only against college policy but are dangerous as well. And, he told his audience, students can order and pick up a bag lunch if classes or studying interfere with lunch hours in the dining room.

Questions? Doubts? Fear of cooking?

“I’m your chef,” he said. “Call me.”

10 Cooking Tricks You Can Use in the Residence Halls 
from Executive Chef Kevin Werner
1. Think pre-washed, pre-cut, pre-cooked, microwave ready. It’s all good and waiting for you in your local supermarket.
2. Four no’s for peace among roommates and dorm-mates – no fish, no broccoli, no curry and absolutely no frying.
3. Check sell-by dates. Green is the color of lettuce and peppers not bread, cheese or meatloaf.
4. Wrap almost anything. Wraps are easy, convenient and there’s no end to the flavor combinations. Really.
5. Chicken broth adds flavor to veggies, rice and whatever else you want to try. Freeze leftover chicken broth in ice-cube trays, pop out cubes and store in baggies in freezer until needed.
6. Stick with shelf-stable items.
7. Become label readers – organic means expensive.
8. Be adventuresome and don’t be intimidated by cooking – try different combinations of vegetables, meat, sauces. 
9. Buy a decent-size bowl and mixing spoon, a colander, and can opener – the basics for dorm cooking.
10. “Hey. Call me! I’m your chef.”