Kids and their parents are at the heart of Tasteful Manners’ mission to share healthy cooking and nutrition education in communities across Chicago. Here are three moms from Spencer Technology Academy on the city’s West Side, sharing how TM has made a positive impact on their families’ lives:

Venus Finley, mother of of two eighth graders at Spencer:
Spencer Technology Academy parent and Tasteful Manners student, Venus Finley (left) with Chef Monica Hayes-Jones
Spencer Technology Academy parent and Tasteful Manners student, Venus Finley (left) with Chef Monica Hayes-Jones

I’ve been taking Chef Monica’s cooking classes with my daughter for about two and a half years. I am diabetic, so it’s important for me to learn to eat healthier. Before Chef Monica’s classes, I would use vegetable oil to fry chicken or fish. Now, I’ve learned to bake more, fry less, eat more salads use healthier oils, like olive oil, and try new things. Matter of fact, Chef Monica has gotten me and my kids to try things we never would try anywhere else.

I have continued taking the classes because I enjoy learning how to cook new things and work healthier eating into our lives. I encourage parents to eat healthier with their kids. Although I don’t have the money to attend the fundraiser, my wish is to continue the program, and have more parents and kids involved in it.

Yolanda Webster, mother of three, all of whom have taken Tasteful Manners classes since the program’s inception:

First of all, I love to support Chef Monica and her business, and I recommend her to other parents and kids. She has been great in helping families incorporate healthy cooking into their daily lives. I’ve learned a lot of things from the classes, like how to use healthier ingredients, how to properly use different types of knives and utensils, how to correctly cut cakes and other tips. She’s also gotten us to try different kinds of vegetables, drink more water and watch portion sizes.

The classes have taught us to be hands-on as a family in the kitchen. We learn a lot, and we do it together. Chef Monica has shown us how to improve our favorites, like making our own kettle chips, salsa, and salad dressing, and introduced us to new ones, like fruit kabobs, and broiling and baking meat dishes. The things we learn in class are things you want to share with your family and friends.

Spencer Technology Academy parents (from left) Tanisha Taylor and Yolanda Finley with Chef Monica Hayes-Jones
Spencer Technology Academy parents and Tasteful Manners students (from left) Tanisha Taylor and Yolanda Webster with Chef Monica Hayes-Jones at the school’s Parent Resource Center.
Tanisha Taylor, mother of three, two of whom have been in classes since 2009:

Chef Monica has taught us how to stretch our food budget by making several meals from just a few ingredients. Plus, we eat healthier now. I used to make salads much differently than I do now. One of my favorites is Chef Monica’s summer salad with strawberries, blueberries, homemade croutons and a light dressing. We add boiled chicken breast to it, and it is a meal that’s ‘got it going on!’

My nine-year-old daughter and I cook together, and she’s learned to cook chicken and make cornbread on her own. I would encourage other parents and kids to go to Chef Monica to learn new things, especially how to stretch a meal.

CWP 2015 flyerIf you’d like to help keep kids and parents cooking healthier meals together, please attend our “Cooking with a Purpose” fundraising event on Friday, October 16, 2015 at Trigger Chicago. The event features a five-course tasting menu prepared by Chef Monica and friends, wines from Chicago wine label Love Cork Screw, plus a DJ and dancing. All proceeds will help Chef Monica and her staff of professional chefs continue to teach cooking and nutrition classes in Chicago public schools. Tickets are $55 per person, or $100 per couple, and can be purchased here.