Camp Zama Soldiers develop kitchen skills at free BOSS cooking class

Spc. Joshua Yi, left, and Capt. Graciela Orantes slice pork tenderloin during a free cooking class Sept. 2 at the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers Warrior Zone at Camp Zama, Japan. Volunteer instructors in the community offer the class regularly to members of the BOSS program as part of a life-skills curriculum. The Soldiers also learn things like the use and maintenance of kitchen equipment and utensils, and basic kitchen safety. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)
Spc. Joshua Yi, left, and Capt. Graciela Orantes slice pork tenderloin during a free cooking class Sept. 2 at the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers Warrior Zone at Camp Zama, Japan. Volunteer instructors in the community offer the class regularly to members of the BOSS program as part of a life-skills curriculum. The Soldiers also learn things like the use and maintenance of kitchen equipment and utensils, and basic kitchen safety. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

Camp Zama Soldiers develop kitchen skills at free BOSS cooking class

by Yukimi Tazawa
U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public Affairs

CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Sept. 10, 2021) – Spc. Joshua Yi had a very succinct but entirely valid reason for attending a free cooking class in which the students could eat their creations.

“I was hungry,” Yi said after finishing the pork tenderloin with herb sauce he and two other Soldiers learned to prepare Sept. 2 at the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers Warrior Zone here.

Volunteer instructors in the community offer the class regularly to members of the BOSS program as part of a life-skills curriculum. In addition to showing the Soldiers how to make simple dishes that take less than 45 minutes to prepare, the instructors also teach them things like the use and maintenance of kitchen equipment and utensils, and basic kitchen safety.

Danielle Carmona, one of the volunteer instructors, said she got involved with the program because she thought it was a good opportunity to show her students they don’t have to have expert culinary skills in order to make a meal.

“I’m not trained or anything, but I can follow a recipe,” Carmona said. “I just want to let these Soldiers know that they don’t always have to [eat fast food].”

In the time she has been an instructor, Carmona said the students who come to her class vary in their level of familiarity in the kitchen. But whether their skills are just basic or even nonexistent, Carmona said she is happy to help them out and teach them “just the basics.”

“We do get some Soldiers in here who have never even cut anything—like, a vegetable or anything,” Carmona said. “So it’s nice to show them that cooking is not hard.”

Some Soldiers get intimidated when they look at a recipe, Carmona said, but when they find out that a certain dish doesn’t take very long to prepare and doesn’t involve too many ingredients, they are more willing to give it a try.

Yi, who was a first-time attendee at the class, describes cooking as “a chore.” But he said he enjoyed the experience and hopes to learn how to make quick meals like the pork tenderloin—“just fast and easy.” Yi also said the class could be beneficial for other young Soldiers.

“Especially in my unit, a lot of the Soldiers don’t cook at all,” Yi said. “They just eat out all the time, which is unhealthy and [costs] a lot of money.”

During the most recent class, Carmona complimented the Soldier-chefs, whom she said were uniformly surprised at how quickly their kitchen skills developed after just one session.

“A lot of the time, they come in feeling a little intimidated, but by the end they’re like, ‘Wow, that was easy!’” Carmona said. “When I first got married, I was pretty young and I couldn’t even boil pasta. I just want people to know that if I can do it, they can do it too.”

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