April’s Awesome Ottawa award goes to Richard Stewart to support his efforts to teach other people living with disabilities how to cook simple, healthy meals.
“I used to be a chef,” explains Richard, “but am now confined to a wheelchair and am no longer able to cook professionally. Wanting to find a way to keep cooking and give back to the community, I started out making some meals for others, and eventually came up with the idea of teaching other people with disabilities how to cook – so they would feel and have more independence.”
“I reached out to some of the local food banks asking if they felt this would be useful for their clients,” he continues, “and they loved the idea. I hosted a first class on Zoom, hoping for five people to join – I had 26. I actually had to schedule a second class!”
“I want to get people connected not just with each other but also with the resources they need to be able to cook safely,” Richard explains. “For example, letting them know what’s available and where they can get safe equipment to use in the kitchen, like specially designed grips, plates, and frying pans.”
“My goal is to hold these classes more and more often. I would talk with the food bank about what they have in abundance and base that week’s meal off that. I would also show how to prepare vegetables, then portion and freeze them for making other things in the future – like dicing an onion and putting it in ice cube trays and then in a freezer bag. Then all they need to do is grab the already-prepared vegetables they need and put a meal together. I’m very fired up about this!”
Richard was hospitalized two and a half years ago when he suddenly couldn’t walk and started having seizures. After five months in hospital, he was diagnosed with a neurological degenerative disorder and told he would never be able to live on his own again. “I had to give up my place and move to a retirement home,” he says, “but I fought hard and am now in independent supported living. I want to help others live independently as well.”
To learn more about Richard’s online classes, visit https://cheftroy.ca.
Funded by Ottawa, ON (April 2021)