Cooking is a gem in the Wellness Center

What’s the first thing that comes to mind upon hearing the abbreviation, “app.”? Most likely it’s not the word “appetizer,” unless you happened to be in attendance at the semester’s first cooking class this past Wednesday.

Held in the instructional kitchen on the second floor of the Herbert Wellness Center, the classes give students, faculty and other members of the community alike the opportunity to get hands on experience in the kitchen while learning new and creative recipes.

This week’s lesson, entitled, “Apps and Sides,” featured an assortment of hors d’oeuvres perfect for the fall and winter seasons, including a vegan sweet potato dip and a green bean and wild mushroom casserole. The delightful side dishes, made entirely with low fat, healthy and budget-friendly ingredients, were a big hit.

Heading the class was Lori Hollander, the Rachel Ray of the Wellness Center.

As a cooking counselor, Hollander specializes in using the kitchen as a vehicle for stress management and communication, and she empowers her pupils to become masters of their own kitchen experiences.

An alumnus of Miami’s own law program, Hollander jumped at the chance to contribute her talents to the University, and she began instructing on campus in 2006. Over the years she has greatly enjoyed the unique benefits of her job.

“I love the enthusiasm and curiosity of the participants,” Hollander said. “I love watching their faces as they try new food, use new equipment, or attempt cooking for the first time. To see their body language relax when I share that there are no right or wrongs is rewarding. After all, the worst that can happen is you’ll order a pizza!”

This week, one of Hollander’s new students was Flavia Forteza, a University of Miami senior majoring in nursing. When browsing the Wellness Center’s website, Forteza discovered the cooking class schedule and was elated to find that vegetarian classes were being offered.

“My boyfriend and I are vegetarians, and we usually just eat rice and pasta. I’m really excited to try and learn how to cook a variety of new vegetarian-friendly foods,” exclaimed Fortenza, who, like many others in attendance, believes the twenty-dollar fee is well worth the experience and plans to attend several more classes this semester.

This year’s nine-week fall session of cooking classes will feature seven lessons, including, “Versatile Curries,” “Harvest Desserts,” and “Middle East Pieces,” proclaimed by Hollander to be a favorite among students.

Although ninety percent of participants are University of Miami students, the sessions are open to all members of the community, but each class is limited to fifteen people, so it’s imperative to register in advance. Clearly, the “Apps and Sides” lesson is truly just an appetizer for what’s to come.

To view the complete cooking class schedule, visit

Catie Staszak may be contacted at