Teaching Kitchen-The Orlando Times

The Orlando Times

Teaching Kitchen

One Recipe At A Time: How An Innovative Teaching Kitchen Can Help You Create Your Recipe For Positive Change 

BY DR. MERCEDES HARRIS and CHEF PHILBORNE BARNUM, GUEST WRITERS TO THE TIMES 

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ORLANDO - “I never knew a turnip can taste so good.”, “I’m diabetic, so this spaghetti squash can replace pasta for me!” or “I didn’t know I can make all of this for $10 and it can be so healthy.” These are some of the many quotes and feedback we hear amongst our class attendees that give us the joy and motivation to continue helping people be happy and healthy.   

Five Loaves & Two Fish Healthy Teaching Kitchen was created and inspired by the biblical story and lesson of blessing others. Dr. Mercedes Harris, a pharmacist by profession enjoys the satisfaction of helping her patients and the public improve their health. Whether it is helping persons understand their medication treatment or achieve goal blood pressure and sugar levels-she is happy to serve. However, two patients- her mother and grandmother were the catalysts to create a safe place where others can learn ways to improve their health and cooking skills in a friendly, supportive, non-judgmental environment. 

Mercedes’ mother an entrepreneur and hairstylist was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 45. At the same time, Mercedes was in her last year of pharmacy school and beginning her course study in cancer medication. Over ten years, her mother bravely endured rigorous cancer treatment including chemotherapy and mastectomy surgery. Nevertheless in 2017, it was discovered her breast cancer developed into leptomeningeal disease. A rare disease occurring between 5 to 10 out of every 100 people. In which cancer cells that travel from the breast, lung, or other part of the body affect the tissue or meninges that protect and surround the brain and spinal cord. Her prognosis was not good and was given four months to live. Bittersweet, at the same time, Mercedes and Philborne found out they were expecting their first child and mother’s soon-to-be first grandchild. However, in spite of the many years of treatment, her mother could not do anymore and agreed to hospice care. 

Mercedes’ role as a daughter and healthcare provider transformed when she took on the role of caretaker for her mother in her last days. Additionally, her husband-trained chef Philborne Barnum took on the role of providing nutritional support. In a private conversation, Philborne’s mother-in-law’s parting words was “Do not let your talent die, keep sharing your gift with others.” Those words Philborne took to heart and spearheaded the creation of Five Loaves & Two Fish Healthy Teaching Kitchen. In January 2018, their mother passed away and through the grief of losing her only daughter; Mercedes’ grandmother suffered a stroke and later passed away from its complications in May of that year-a month before Mercedes’ due date.   

“Through pain comes strength.” 

Dealing with the heartache we experienced. The birth of our daughter provided solace and perseverance to continue. Creating our teaching kitchen after prior attendance to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute of America’s ‘Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives’ conference in which attendees share methods of improving health and lifestyle choices. Our goal is to teach others methods of improving their health through nutrition and culinary education. Classes include shop-wise grocery planning, monitoring your overall health (i.e. physical, emotional), fitness and cooking techniques (i.e. knife basics, food preparation and plating). Class lessons strive on creating meals that can be easily prepared, nutritious and that can feed a family for $10. The challenge, attendees are able to succeed and achieve includes cooking meals with ingredients that can be easily sourced at markets, healthier and cost less than fast-food menu options to help improve blood pressure, sugar, cholesterol and weight levels. Our classes cater to all age groups (youth to adult) and interests (camp cooking lessons, employee wellness programs, the CDC National Diabetes Prevention Program). Additionally, we offer private/group health, wellness and cooking consultations.    

With the increasing rates of chronic disease such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer coupled with the growing statistics of obesity and mental health concerns (i.e. depression) among children and adults. We want to help improve these numbers in a fun, interactive environment with our teaching kitchen. With our mobile teaching kitchen, we are able to host classes in-person/virtually and plan on continuing to share this innovative approach to health and wellness throughout Central Florida and internationally. 

Our goal is to have others live healthier lives and help others have the chance of spending more precious moments and memories with their loved ones. We graciously welcome the opportunity to speak to The Orlando Times newspaper’s audience on various health, wellness and cooking topics. Let us help you create your recipe for positive change. Learn more about how you can be a part of our interactive, dynamic class at www.52htk.com or email us at mail@52htk.com. 

"The future depends on what we do in the present."  - Mahatma Gandhi