Chef Partners in Richmond, VA Unite to Bring Healthy Cooking Classes to the Community

Representatives from La Casa de la Salud cooking Tailgate Chili from

On Friday, March 22, 2019 the American Heart Association (AHA) in Richmond, VA brought together several partners with a passion for cooking to achieve a common goal:  to empower others to live healthier by learning how to cook nutritious, yet budget-friendly, meals at home.

Representatives from five local organizations were trained as “chef partners” for the AHA’s Simple Cooking with Heart (SCWH) program at Peter Paul Development Center.  The goal of SCWH is to teach basic culinary skills (chopping, dicing, mixing, etc.) increase food safety knowledge and have the participants make and taste how delicious simple, heart-healthy recipes can be.  As a result of this training, the chef partners are now equipped with the tools and knowledge to implement the program in the communities they serve.  These communities include a variety of groups across the city like students and seniors in the East End and members of the region’s growing Latino and Hispanic community.

Social determinants of health such as access to healthy food can directly impact one’s ability to live a long, healthy life.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world and African American, Hispanic and Latino communities are at an even greater risk.

The organizations in attendance and their representatives included Dr. Ethlyn McQueen-Gibson and Ana Diallo from VCU’s School of Nursing; Kristin Rabourdin from the new East End grocery store, Market@25th; Larissa Ramos, Carina Armstrong-Gamez, Keili Espana-Parades and Karen Chacon from La Casa de la Salud; Keon Lomax from Peter Paul Development Center; Chef Gordon and Cheryl Russell of The Welcome Table and Chef Raymond Britt of Solefood RVA.

Chefs Dedra Blount and Debra Brabson

Thanks to the generous support of Steve and Kathie Markel, VCU Health and the Richmond Memorial Health Foundation, five mobile kitchen kits  will be placed with these community partners to conduct classes.  Kits include a cirriculum guide, recipes and all the necessary cooking utensils and equipment to conduct a class.   In addition, they will receive a stipend to purchase ingredients to host their own cooking classes.  Classes are free of charge and at the end of the class, participants will take home a heart-healthy meal for their family and the skills to recreate it in the future.

“I like that the recipes also include the cost per serving.  We often hear from our seniors that they can’t eat healthy on a budget, but when you can show them that this meal is only $3.44 per serving, we can show them that it’s possible,” said Dr. Ethlyn McQueen-Gibson.  “We’re very excited to add this to our arsenal of resources.”

Chef Dedra Blount and her identical twin, Debra Brabson, conducted the training.  Dedra and Debra are from Hampton Roads and lead cooking demonstrations for AHA’s Mobile Kitchen initiative in Hampton Roads.

For American Heart Association recipes and tips for eating healthy, visit

Interested in getting involved with this program?  Fill out our volunteer interest form.

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