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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Students follow their noses in Kelly Dining cooking demo

    Flavor seekers awoke their senses Friday evening with a spicy demonstration in the Kelly Dining Center. Executive Chef Al Aberg’s “Follow Your Nose Spice Demo” allowed students to become better acquainted with the scents and uses of various spices and herbs. The lesson also provided participants with a dash of history.

    The presentation, which began shortly after five o’clock on Feb.23, was a hands-on encounter with spices. From cinnamon to allspice, nearly 30 containers adorned the display table. The spices were accompanied by their respective samples.

    Smelling and occasionally tasting was important as samples were passed to each participant and identified and discussed.  Aberg gave background information for each, including their use or medicinal purposes, if any. He also touched upon where certain spices originated and how trading helped to spread spices from one area to another.

    “Spice is very important in the history of the world,” said Chef Aberg. They are an important aspect of culture. Gumbo Filé, for instance, is a spicy herb used for making various types of gumbo, which is a Creole and Cajun stew. Chefs at the SAC used this as a spice in some foods set out for Mardi Gras.

    Herbs and spices, however, are not to be confused. Herbs, like fresh basil or rosemary, are leafy green plants. They are not considered spices until they have dried. Unlike spices, which are incorporated into dishes, herbs are garnishes.

    A spice is a dried seed, fruit, root, bark or vegetable-based substance used for flavor, color, medicinal purposes or as a preservative. The older a spice gets, the less pungent its smell. Depending on how old the spice is, it can still be used; tea can be made from aged rosemary. It can be used to help an upset stomach, digestive disorders and headaches.

    Chef Aberg, who grows and dries some of his herbs, believes that society’s knowledge about spices is commercialized. “Kentucky Fried Chicken has their original recipe…once they manufacture their taste it’s…there. There’s not enough people home cooking. Most people wouldn’t know half of this stuff,” said Aberg.

    For these reasons, presentations like Chef Aberg’s “Follow Your Nose Demo” are important. They provide individuals with insight on various topics.

    The demonstration was one of many offered by the Executive Chef’s Kitchen program at Stony Brook. According to Angela Agnello, the director of marketing and communications of the FSA at Stony Brook, the program began after the servery of Kelly Dining was last renovated in 2000.

    The topics of these presentations are determined monthly. Themes may be incorporated for special occasions, holidays, tips for students or new products. In addition, the Campus Dining Services nutritionist offers healthy cooking demonstrations once a week.

    The executive chef, operations director and marketing director comprise the Campus Dining Services team. Not only does this group determine the topic, but also the location and chef in charge of each presentation.

    Like at many of the demonstrations offered by the Executive Chef’s Kitchen, food was provided.  Yellow rice with curried chicken and vegetables and cinnamon coated churros were served as dinner and desert.

    Churros are sometimes referred to as Spanish doughnuts. They are usually fried and sometimes sprinkled with sugar. Chef Aberg, however, left the final touches to the participants. Together, students created a blend of spices, including sugar, allspice, nutmeg and cumin ,to name a few. The blend made for some sweet churros with a kick of spice.

    Chef Aberg captured the attention of his audience with jokes, a dose of history and a lesson on spices. In addition to the free food, Dominic Dabrowski, a political science master’s student, feels that he learns something new upon the events.

    Dabrowski is no stranger to the programs Executive Chef’s Kitchen offers, attending two or three a week. Based upon his experience, Dabrowski was very pleased describing Aberg’s demo as “pretty far up there.”

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