Io Maeda | Journal Review
Whether in the classroom or the kitchen, Richard Warner is always teaching.
Warner, an associate professor of history at Wabash College and former professional chef, conducted a live, virtual cooking demonstration for alumni from his kitchen with help and inspiration from Benjamin Bullock, class of 2023 from the U.K. The June 22 event was part of the college’s “After the Bell” series aimed at alumni engagement.
The project started when Bullock won the Walter L. Fertig Prize in freshman writing last year. He wrote about the Cuban dish “Ropa Vieja” for Warner’s history class. “Ropa Vieja” is the Spanish term for “old clothes.”
“It is really just beef, vegetables and sauce,” Bullock said.
In the paper, he discussed how the cuisine can be seen as a symbol of Cuban history from Spanish colonization to the revolution to a communal kitchen.
“A lot of people think of Caribbean food as spicy, however, that is not what it is,” Bullock said. “Cuban food is very much not spicy.”
Both men were excited before the event.
“Live is more fun because anything can happen,” Warner said. “Some people will be nervous doing that, but I have no worries at all.”
Although the duo made a few small errors during the demonstration, the audience was unaware.
“By all accounts, the event went quite well,” Warner said.
Bullock and Warner were not able to see the audience during the presentation. However, there were many comments and questions in the chat, according to the moderator who was remote during the event. Warner answered or commented on what he heard relayed from the moderator through a headset.
“It was fun being able to teach a cooking class and some history from my kitchen, especially after this long year of not being able to entertain,” Warner said.
Both Bullock and Warner have completely different cooking experiences.
Bullock can prepare simple British food. While, Warner was a professional chef before he became a professor at Wabash College.
“I started working in the kitchen after I graduated from college and I worked to be a chef in various places,” he said. “I worked in the restaurant industry for 13 years.”
Warner believes the event was a symbol of connection between cooking and the liberal arts.
“In cooking this can be seen as the difference from being able to follow a recipe versus thinking more broadly about how food works,” Warner said. “For us, there are key connections to the liberal arts here. We need to think critically about why something may or may not be a fact. On our best days we are teaching the skills of wisdom, whether this is in the classroom or the kitchen.”