VIU intercultural program coordinator Simon Schachner hosts the weekly cooking show Culture Kitchen. (Photo courtesy Simon Schachner)

VIU online cooking show keeping students connected during COVID-19 pandemic

‘Culture Kitchen’ features students making dishes from their home countries

An online cooking show is helping keep the Vancouver Island University student body connected while self-isolating.

Every week in the VIU international building, intercultural program coordinator Simon Schachner hosts Culture Couch, a casual drop-in event in which international students give presentations about their home countries, with the most popular part being the sharing of national dishes. Those meetings ended when the school closed down due to COVID-19.

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“Once campus closed we had to come up with ways to keep connected with the student community and come up with online programming,” Schachner said. “So I just thought to adapt it and kind of go with the most popular part of those Culture Couch events and just focus on the cooking.”

In April, Schachner debuted Culture Kitchen, with an inaugural episode in which he made a meal representing his own Canadian culture, a grilled cheese sandwich. The show was broadcast live on the VIU Cultural Connections Facebook page. Schachner said hosting his first online show “did feel kind of awkward, but it produced some pretty funny results.”

“Being on camera and live you just have to keep thinking of things to say so I really expanded upon all aspects of grilled cheese making,” he said. “So it ended up being really fun and I got responses from so many different students and friends across Canada and internationally so it kind of took off.”

Schachner said right after that first program he was inundated with requests from VIU students and staff to demonstrate how to cook dishes from their home countries. Some of the dishes showcased on Culture Kitchen so far include Chilean churros, Syrian tuna patties and Indian lentil stew.

“The reaction has been amazing,” Schachner said. “It’s definitely one of our success stories in terms of keeping connected with students and keeping something going that they look forward to and that they can be a part of.”

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Most recently, Indian business student Mugdha Vairal made onion fritters, a “very quick, very easy” recipe that reminds her of her childhood.

“Indian cooking can be a bit complex, but I wanted to choose something which everyone can do,” she said.

Vairal said being on the show was a “lovely” experience and an opportunity to share her culture. She said her dish is a popular street food in her home city of Mumbai and calls it a “pick-me-up snack.”

“It elevates your mood, it [brings] joy, and that’d why I wanted to introduce this kind of a recipe,” she said. “Because I know everyone is stuck at home right now and the weather is beautiful outside and this kind of a recipe can get a lot of joy in your heart.”

WHAT’S ON … Culture Kitchen airs on Tuesdays at 5 p.m. on the VIU Cultural Connections Facebook page.

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