Diane McAllister Shares Her Passion for Cooking with People We Support

Direct Support Professional Diane McAllister is in awe of the enthusiasm, imagination and confidence that the people we support have brought to the Monarch Creative Art and Community Center (MCACC) kitchen.

The MCACC participants have the opportunity to participate in the pottery, art and dance studio, as well as learning how to navigate a large kitchen located within the dining area. MCACC offers classes for the approximately 60 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities who attend.
Those interested in learning their way around the kitchen are invited to assist with preparing the weekly donated meal each Wednesday for the Worship Center in Southern Pines.

In preparing this weekly meal, as well as attending Friday’s cooking classes with Chef Karen Cusano, she has watched day program attendees learn cooking skills and become confident in the kitchen. McAllister explained that they assist in preparing the meal by chopping and prepping ingredients, as well as coming up with meal ideas.

“They work well together and the people we support know each other’s strengths and skills for certain kitchen tasks,” McAllister noted, adding that many have pursued cooking at home.

McAllister worked under a chef decades ago, but has carried her passion for cooking with her often by preparing food for her fellow church members. Now, she shares that with people we support by teaching them how to make their favorite recipes for themselves.

“They truly don’t hesitate in giving their advice about what we should cook next,” she said.

People supported often get help from church members who arrive early to cook with them. “They look forward to Wednesdays and to what we’re making that week. They come in knowing what we’re making because we’ve already discussed it and planned it ahead of time,” said McAllister. “They feel good knowing that this is food going to someone other than themselves.”

“I try to teach them how to do most things from scratch because it tastes better . . . They can do it all on their own. I’ve let them make their own mistakes, but there are very few errors once they’ve learned a recipe,” said McAllister.

Being involved in the preparation of the weekly Wednesday meal and the other cooking classes has not only taught a life lesson, but serves as a social. About 25 people from the church and community enjoy and partake in the Wednesday meals, including people we support.

Photo captions: Above right, Direct Support Professional Diane McAllister gets ready to prepare a Wednesday meal in the MCACC kitchen. Below right, MCACC day program participants complete prep work for the donated meal.