‘Bulldogs in the Kitchen’ helps athletes cook up a winning dish

The Fresno State women’s basketball team learns how to cook during a session with students from the nutrition and dietetics department. (Aly Honore/The Collegian)

The Fresno State women’s basketball team sharpened its knives and cooking skills last Wednesday along with students from the nutrition and dietetics department.

The “Bulldogs in the Kitchen” program is in its seventh year as senior students work with student-athletes to teach them basic “cooking survival skills,” said Dr. Lisa Herzig, a professor and nutrition and dietetics undergraduate coordinator.

“What we find is that the [student-athletes] come together as a team, so not only are they learning those skills, but they’re also working together as a team and building those communication skills, collaboration and partnership,” Herzig said.

The program is part of Nutrition 149, an upper-division capstone course for nutrition and dietetics students which focuses on food and nutrition communication. Students in the class spend the semester putting together a needs assessment and lesson plan, resulting in the cooking class for the athletes, Herzig said.

“We’re not just teaching [the athletes] new skills, but we’re also having our students understand what it’s like to put a nutrition education program together,” Herzig said.

Senior nutrition and dietetics student Brittni Kleinhans has worked as a coordinator along with three other students – Arianna Meleandez, Linda Larsen and Sara Rima.

Together, they compiled the “playbook,” a menu of dishes for the athletes to choose from for their cooking workshop.

The playbook includes recipes for appetizers, side dishes and entrees.

“It gives [the athletes] a step-by-step and pictures of how to make each recipe,” Kleinhans said.

There are also sections on food safety, cooking times, proper hand washing and other information for the athletes to refer to.

“We always make the appetizer for them so it’s ready when they get here and they have something to eat,” Kleinhans said.

The women’s basketball team chose to make a Mexican meal during its cooking session, which included an appetizer of pico de gallo with tortilla chips, Mexican chopped salad with cilantro dressing and an enchilada casserole.

Past sessions included athletes from the water polo and volleyball teams.

Herzig said, all of the students take “Bulldog pride” in what they make.

“Each night has a different personality, but they’re all so much fun because they’re really into it,” Herzig said.

The team members came together in groups in the kitchen laboratory at the Family and Food Science Building to collaborate on the dishes with a nutrition and dietetics student leading each step.

Team captains Tory Jacobs and Candice White were part of the station cooking the vegan enchilada casserole. Both athletes said they’d tried cooking before attending the workshop.

“I cook a lot just because it saves money, and you’re able to control how healthy it can be,” White said.

Jacobs said she appreciated learning about nutrition facts from the playbook provided by the program.

“This moment, just being in here is helping us with a little bit of a team bonding. Seeing what everybody can do and seeing others learn how to cook and helping others who are not always in the kitchen,” Jacobs said.

Along with dinner, the basketball team also made a special dish for dessert – waffles, or “woofles,” as the Bulldogs in the Kitchen call them.

The nutrition and dietetics students provided the signature waffle mix and toppings like fruit and fresh whipped cream for the athletes to eat after their dinner.

At the end of the evening, the athletes got to take home a playbook, a packet of “woofle” mix and a certificate signifying the completion of the class.

“I feel like sometimes when you get in the kitchen and you see what you’ve created after you’re done cooking, it motivates you to want to cook more at home,” White said.

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