We all know that playing with your food is considered impolite, but playing while you create your food is a whole different story. I was lucky enough to grow up in a household where cooking was a family affair and always involved lots of learning and laughter, but unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone. I can remember realizing during college that some of my friends barely knew how to cook a microwave dinner, let alone how to make a meal that was both healthy and delicious. They came from families that believed that it was too difficult, expensive, or time-consuming to create wholesome food and share it as a family, but Urban Dinner Chef, Megan Hobza, is on a mission to teach people that making healthy, delicious food is not only fun, it’s completely doable regardless of time or monetary constraints.
Urban Dinner Socials is a pop-up vegan gastropub that hosts “Make and Take” cooking classes focused on teaching people how to make healthy, plant-based meals that they can have throughout the week. When I showed up to Jennie Cook’s Plant Based Parties venue on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I found a small group of people of all ages and backgrounds, prepared to beef up their vegan culinary skills. Megan welcomed everyone and introduced the volunteer kitchen staff along with some of the gardeners from Whittier Backyward Farms, who supplied a table full of fresh, local produce for the event. After explaining some basic kitchen safety, Megan let us pick teams and decide what menu items we wanted to make. Since desserts have always been my job when it came to making family meals, I decided it was time to add vegan baked goods to my repertoire and paired up with a guy named Charlie, who just so happens to own his own Los Angeles-based gluten-free brownie business, aptly named Charlie’s Brownies.
Charlie and I selected a vegan, gluten-free vanilla cake recipe and decided to take it to the next level by adding some of the vibrant oranges and carrots from the produce table. Megan let us know that she had already made a vegan chocolate coconut frosting that we were welcome to use and we ventured into the kitchen to pick a work station and get to baking. Despite the fact that most of the eleven participants didn’t know each other, there was an instant sense of camaraderie and playfulness in the kitchen as everyone set to work on their culinary creations. People took turns on kitchen gadgets, roamed between stations to sample the various works in progress, chatted and exchanged stories as they cooked, and Megan circulated around the kitchen, answering questions and providing pointers on vegan cooking techniques.
After a couple of hours in the kitchen, our class had collectively made 3 salads, 2 soups, 3 entrees and 2 desserts, one of which was the Orange Zest Carrot Cake with Chocolate Coconut Drizzle and Toasted Cashews that Charlie and I made. After enjoying a tasting party where we all sampled each other’s dishes, the menu items were wrapped up in tidy to-go packages and participants went home with portions of each tasty, wholesome dish and a wonderful warm feeling that only comes from sharing good food with good company.