Three local chefs are offering free cooking classes to home cooks of all skill levels at the Church Health Center (CHC). Carolyn Nichols, Symone Johnson, and Sheri McKelvie are focusing on healthy eating through a Mediterranean diet with a fun and nutritious course.

The three passionate chefs share a common cause.

Carolyn: “When I started changing my eating and exercise habits in high school, I had more energy, felt better, and had more self-confidence. I want to help others eat better in order to live a healthier life.”

Symone: “I joined the CHC team to help inform our community about eating and living a healthier life. Everyday schedules can be hectic, but making mealtime easy for at least one family brings joy to my heart.”  

Sheri: “I’ve been an instructor at CHC for almost two years. I love helping participants feel comfortable in the kitchen. Many people just haven’t cooked much and have some anxiety about preparing food and also about nutrition.”

A recent beginners class took place against a bright blue backdrop with gleaming stainless steal stations. Participants created four different variations of spaghetti, from a meaty style dish to a completely vegetarian one. The instructors demonstrated how to incorporate healthy Mediterranean-inspired ingredients into standard favorites.

After a quick lesson in knife skills, participants were soon chopping and the aroma of simmering onions and garlic filled the room. Volunteers helped with measuring and the cleanup. From the instructors to the students and helpers, everyone was drawn together with a sense of community.

“Be confident!” Symone urged, “When you’re the chef you have full control of your health and body.” Carolyn adds, “Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. A delicious meal can be put on a table in under an hour without using every pot and pan in the house!” 

At the end of the evening, participants got to taste each other’s creations before going over the nutritional value and calorie content of each dish. Sheri points out, “The Mediterranean diet doesn’t forbid certain foods like fad diets. It shifts the focus to vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats.”

Carolyn adds, “I think many folks think it’s too expensive to eat healthily or to follow the Mediterranean diet. Most of our dinners are under $15 per meal for a family of four. We don’t go to fancy grocery stores to purchase ingredients. All of our can be found at Kroger or Walmart.” 

To find out how to participate in a free cooking series, visit

By Pamela Poletti