A&E

Riding the whole foods wave

Homemade Cooking teaches members to prepare nutritious meals

"I feel like we are on the crest of the wave of the biggest trend: the movement back to homemade whole food cooking."

So says Anna Rakoczy, co-founder of the Palo Alto-based company, Homemade Cooking.

The cooking-class organization was created with the understanding that restrictive diets are not an empowering way to obtain greater health. Instead of counting calories or cutting out carbs, Homemade Cooking offers weekly two-hour cooking classes at which members are introduced to seasonal ingredients, taught various cooking methods and given a wide variety of healthy recipes.

Rakoczy met co-founder Dr. Chloe Chien while studying for her master's degree at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. The two worked on a project together to address obesity and lifestyle diseases. Upon their graduation in July 2013, that project became a full-time operation.

"Food needs to be full of nutrients," Rakoczy noted during a recent interview. "What could be simpler than telling someone, 'Just use whole ingredients, and listen to your hunger?' We are inspired by thinking about how we can help a busy person who wants to cook and eat healthy food within 15-20 minutes. If it's complicated, it's just not practical for real life."

But what about taste? "People think 'eating healthy' is lettuce and broccoli," she said. "I love to show people you can have nuts, pasta and meat. We look at the recipes and make sure they are nutritionally balanced, with quality protein, high fiber, vitamins and minerals. Our recipes all go together as components that support the body."

When asked about her daily routine, Rakoczy admitted, "After two and a half years, I have yet to experience a typical work day. Each day brings on constant challenges, new activities and new situations.

"If you have a culture where you are always open to feedback, it leads to mutual respect throughout the company. I believe in personal check-ins and business check-ins. They help us understand where people are mentally. Then we know how people will operate. I've realized-if you don't have a great team, you have no business. The team is a reflection of the culture."

In addition to her partnership with Chien, Rakoczy also employs a number of cooking instructors, among them Jennifer Davis, who has been with the company for one year. Prior to joining Homemade, Davis obtained a degree in culinary arts from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in San Francisco. She went on to work in a French kitchen and as a private chef delivering culinary creations to small startup companies seeking healthy meals for their teams. The CEOs she worked for reported that after eating her meals for a period of time, their energy levels had increased and the number of sick days reported by their staff had decreased.

"Because I was cooking all of that food, I started eating it, and I started dropping weight," Davis commented. "I was sleeping a lot better, too. So I learned that I could balance my love of food with making my body feel good.

"When I saw a job post for a cooking instructor teaching people how to cook with whole, unprocessed beautiful foods, I was all over it!"

Homemade Cooking members can expect to leave each class with basic guidelines to create each dish, along with a description of health benefits and macro-nutrients found in each food they learn to prepare. Davis encourages members to embark on their own flavor journey by adding ingredients according to taste.

"Here, we are all about the fact that we don't use any teaspoons or cups, and we are tasting everything," she said. We don't want (members) to be intimidated looking at some multi-page recipe!"

Members have also formed friendships in Homemade Cooking classes.

"Community is the feeling that we have been fostering in the classes," Davis noted. "I had one class that would go get drinks afterwards! Some of the members live alone, so they really come for the social aspect."

The team at Homemade Cooking shares a unanimous attitude towards restrictive diets.

"I think people have gotten afraid of food," Davis reflected. "It's really all about knowledge. People get confused between refined and unrefined sugars. Whole grains are great; they break down slowly. They're going to give you energy."

"These low carbohydrate diets are too restrictive," Rakoczy added. "It feels miserable! There is just no net benefit. It overlooks the real problem: refined carbs and sugar. They cause the problems."

According to Davis, indulgences in moderation are a part of a healthy lifestyle. When asked about her own favorite guilty pleasures, she laughed.

"Hands down, dark chocolate!" she said. "But it's antioxidants! I buy myself really nice fair-trade dark chocolates because you've got to have treats."

With Homemade Cooking, Rakoczy is putting her dream into action: helping others to adopt a truly sustainable lifestyle. "We want to start a social cooking movement to influence everyone's lives, from this area, throughout America and beyond," she said.

What: Homemade Cooking Classes

Where:

• Menlo Park: Arrillaga Family Recreation Center, 700 Alma St.

• Palo Alto: 3145 Porter Drive

• Stanford: Lokey Stem Cell Research Building, 265 Campus Drive

• Stanford: Green Earth Sciences Building, 367 Panama St.

• Stanford: Freidenrich Center for Translational Research, 800 Welch Road

When: Winter courses begin Oct. 26. Space is limited to 12-15 people per class, depending on location.

Cost: $400 for five weeks, $650 for 10 weeks, $1,950 for one year. Palo Alto Weekly readers will receive a $100 discount off of the price of winter courses when mentioning this story.

Info: Go to homemade-cooking.com, email member@homemade-cooking.com or call 650-399-0505.

Chrissi Angeles is an editorial intern at Palo Alto Weekly.

Comments

2 people like this
Posted by Mindful
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2015 at 1:35 pm

This is wonderful! I would just say, though, the advice above works if people are having problems from eating a poor diet. Sometimes people will see benefits from eating gluten free or whatever, simply because their diets were already so poor and they'll benefit even more from this. However, sometimes diets have a specific purpose. Sometimes food can be good medicine and the prescription is not the same for all circumstances. I found doing away with meat had significant and documentable health benefits. Keeping on the lower fat end of the spectrum has also done me better than pharmaceuticals at addressing cholesterol problems, atherosclerosis, etc. It's alao far more sustainable to eat mostly plants. I do eat seafood so I'm not a purist. My spouse seems to have no such problems from eating meat. We do know others including family members who get quite sick from eating glutinous grains. People are different, and I think it's also healthy when people try different things in order to understand what their body needs and reacts to.This is wonderful! I would just say, though, the advice above works if people are having problems from eating a poor diet. Sometimes people will see benefits from eating gluten free or whatever, simply because their diets were already so poor and they'll benefit even more from this. However, sometimes diets have a specific purpose. Sometimes food can be good medicine and the prescription is not the same for all circumstances. I found doing away with meat had significant and documentable health benefits. Keeping on the lower fat end of the spectrum has also done me better than pharmaceuticals at addressing cholesterol problems, atherosclerosis, etc. It's alao far more sustainable to eat mostly plants. I do eat seafood so I'm not a purist. My spouse seems to have no such problems from eating meat. We do know others including family members who get quite sick from eating glutinous grains. People are different, with different medical histories, and I think it's also healthy when people try different things in order to understand what their body needs and reacts to.

So I'm not comfortable with the criticism of people's diets even though I agree with the general advice here. I do disagree about eating meat, though. I became a vegetarian (er, pescatarian) because of health reasons that have borne out over the years. I have found that even small amounts of meat, including poultry, just are not worth the health impacts, for me. Again, not everyone is the same. So telling people that vegetarian diets or whatever just arent necessary and this way of eating is always best for everyone - sorry, It's just not true. It is, however extremely helpful for people to have the knowledge of how to cook like this.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Food fads come and go. Organic, gluten free and low fat seem to be the main fads at present. I know people have allergies, and certain foods can be detrimental to certain health issues, but basically, a lot of what we eat today compared to a generation or two ago is a fad. To say that modern society have lost the art as well as the joy of preparing and eating wholesome food is possibly true and anything that can bring that back should be applauded.

As a follow on, the real problem is that with the world population approaching 9 billion by 2050, our food producers, preparers and our own children, should be learning how to do this and what foods we will be eating in a world populated by 9 billion. To begin with, the amount of food that is produced and wasted through spoilage and over purchasing will have to be curtailed. Likewise, the gluttony that produces obesity will have to be dealt with. A quick Google of the subject of "Feeding a world of 9 billion" produces a plethora of articles pertaining to this. Starting a conversation at the local level of how these changes should be faced is a worthwhile one to have.


3 people like this
Posted by Mindful
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2015 at 7:38 pm

I've been eating organic or homegrown for about 30 years. To me, it's not a fad, but then organic is more than just lack of pesticides, it's about things like soil tilth which are pretty important for a sustainable food-growing planet. I'm not sure I agree about the "fads" - paleo and Atkins strike me as fads. Organic and low fat have both sustainability, healthy planet, and the latter proven health benefits. Vegetarianism used to be considered a fad, it's pretty mainstream now. Even veganism is. Come to think of it, organic has been the norm for most of humankind's association with plant eating - pesticidism is more a fad, if you think about it...


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2015 at 9:24 pm

When I say organic is a fad, I mean that it has become something that we choose between at the grocery stores. I think home grown produce has always tasted better as well as food bought at farm stands. My own parents dug up part of the back lawn to grow vegetables soon after they bought their first chest freezer. Their goal was to be self sufficient in vegetables for the family. They realized that although they could produce quite a large quantity of excellent produce and freeze and preserve the bounty, it was far from being self sufficient for a family of 5.

I can agree with what Mindful says up to the point of what is better for us to eat. However, my point is more along the lines of how much extra agricultural space takes compared to regular farming. To feed 9 billion people on the planet, not all 9 billion are going to be able to eat food that takes so much space. We are probably in agreement about GM foods, but to feed 9 billion people, GM foods are going to be produced on smaller amounts of acreage than at present. Unless we give over all rural land to food production we are going to have to grow more food in less space.

2050 is not too far into the future. Our children will be living on a planet that has to feed 9 billion. The methods to do so are going to have to be designed now.


Like this comment
Posted by Mindful
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2015 at 9:43 pm

We had a terraced hill in the East Bay and pretty much grew everything we needed without trying too hard, including that on top of canning, drying, and freezing, we gave a lot away. We didnt ever need to go to the market for anything except some staples. We havent tried to duplicate that here, but it was a smaller lot there. Of course, not everyone has four growing seasons like this general area.

WWII so many people had victory gatdens. People can do a lot on small plots of land. It's better if things arent shipped in, too.


Like this comment
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 15, 2015 at 12:30 am

>> To feed 9 billion people on the planet, not all 9 billion are going to be able to eat food that takes so much space. We are probably in agreement about GM foods, but to feed 9 billion people, GM foods are going to be produced on smaller amounts of acreage than at present.

GMO food are a huge disappointment. None of them have worked as hoped, and they
have all been the beneficiary to no regulation, cover-ups, incompetence and fraud.

This is proven over and over in the new book "Altered Genes, Twisted Trusth."

They have ended up in the majority of cases actually making agriculture less productive
by evolving pests who are immune to the herbicide which is expressed in every cell
of a GMO plant ... i.e. the parts we eat. They played the game of cranking up the
expression of these chemicals and the insects just got worse.

Now we are using a class of very dangerous chemicals, the neonicotinoids which are
sprayed on seeds and soak the seeds and are so powerful they permeate the whole
plant, even when it is mature. Neonicotinoids are believed to be the the cause or
related to the cause of the colony collapse disorder that is killing off honey bees.

When they plow GMO crops under the chemicals in them stay in the ground for
extended periods and concentrate and poison the land.

But more important, from the way that GMO crops are produced, the term
genetic engineering in a complete misnomer. When they insert genes into an
organism they really have no idea what is going on and only rely on the fact
that the ones they choose that come out of the process "look" like they are
normal, but there is virtually no testing done on them.

The have only found recently, around 2012 that DNA coding is not linear as
scientists have thought and assumed since the 70's. There are dual coding
functions in DNA ( look up duons ) that regulate the production of proteins
within the cell. The whole basis of GE food was misunderstood until that
time.

When they insert genes from a virus, animal or bacteria into a plant, it
creates a genomic shock that can have the control mechanisms of the
plant completely changing the metabolism of the plant so that in some
cases it does not express proteins that is used to, or in others it can
express toxic proteins in significant amounts, or even proteins that were
not known to be in that plant.

I urge everyone to read this book so they can understand the monumental
fraud that has been perpetrated on the American public in order to get us
to act as Guinea pigs for companies too dishonest to tell us what is going
on and too cheap to do real testing on their products before they are pushed
on the market so we have to pay for them.

And the worst is that coming up is the Senate vote on the "dark" act that
is a federal law written by this industry and its lobbyists that seeks to make
it illegal to pass a law in any state mandating the labelling of GMO products
on your supermarket shelf.

I wrote a lengthy article on this called
"The DARK act? GMO companies give the public the mushroom treatment"
here:

Web Link

It did not get much response except by one responder who wrote a whole
line of fallacies in response to the facts I laid out. You cannot trust what
you have been told because the GMO industry decided in the 80s that it
was more important to create a "mythogenesis" about how GMOs would save
the world, rather than to inform people what was actually going on.

This is an important issue. Take the example of the Flavr-Savr (TM) Tomato,
grown in the fields of California itself. Preliminary tests that were hushed up
and ignored showed that mice fed GMO tomatoes developed stomach and
intestine ulcers in all versions of this GMO plant. The plant itself did not
even do what it as meant to do, that is to not make an enzyme that caused
the plant to become soft after it was picked. Yet these tomatoes were
grown in the fields of California anyway, and no one had any idea about what
these tests showed because the results have never been fully made public
and the scientist who did the testing was fired.

These companies and even the regulators, USDA and FDA have consistently
broken their own regulations, which is basically the law the US has had since
the 50's that nothing that has not been proven to be safe in a non-theoreticaly
way is to allowed on the US food market.

There is a lot of information here, if you believe me, read the book. If you do not
believe me, read the book. Inform yourself, or at least look at the other side of
the glowing "mythogensis" you get from Monsanto.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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