Fustini's Oils and Vinegars

Chef Feature: Getting to Know Chef John VanderJagt

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When you participate in a virtual cooking class, you do more than just learn how to prepare a few dishes. You’re invited into an entertaining event that will leave you with good memories and new skills. 

No matter your skill or experience level in the kitchen, there’s always something new to enjoy and learn. Like in-person cooking classes, which began in 2013 at Fustini’s, today’s virtual cooking classes are both a dinner and a show. You’ll get to enjoy some delicious food while also being entertained and informed about cooking techniques, interesting notes about cuisines and much more. 

And all of this entertainment and insight comes from our experienced and knowledgeable chefs. Chefs like John VanderJagt. 

John began with Fustini’s School of Cooking as a guest chef at our Holland location. Now, he leads engaging and entertaining virtual classes from a home kitchen. With extensive knowledge and experience, his classes cover a variety of types of cuisines and dishes, perfect for every kind of palette. 

Getting to Know Chef John VanderJagt 

How did you learn and grow in your culinary skills? 

I first started honing my culinary skills in high school. I attended Kent Career Technical Center for two years. After high school, I took a year off to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Once I figured out what I wanted to do I then attended the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education in Grand Rapids. 

After attending school, I worked under some amazing chefs. With them, I developed my skills, knowledge and craft. I have worked in various culinary settings, from high-end restaurants, college and universities, business and industry, conference centers and retreat centers. I’ve worked my way up through the ranks. I have also cooked for CEOs, executives and various government officials. 

What do you enjoy most about cooking at home? 

For me, there is a lot more freedom in cooking at home. I can experiment by putting flavors together and making dishes that I normally would not get the chance to make. I don't have to worry about pleasing others. I can take more risks in my cooking

How do you come up with the menu for your cooking class? 

When I am coming up with the menus and ideas for class, it’s often based on ideas and flavors that are running around inside my head. An idea or flavor may have been there for a year or for five minutes. I try it out at home and see what I get. If it is good enough, I put it in a menu. 

In what ways can cooking bring people together? 

It lets us stay connected to one another.

A sit-down dinner or even an ice cream run allows us to talk and check in with our friends and family members. It’s important to keep in touch with the people in your life, especially if you’re busy. 

It allows us to learn about food.

Sharing a family recipe with a friend or trying out a new recipe together is a great way to learn about food. Learning new things helps bring people together by encouraging them to start a conversation about food and interact with each other.

We can share our culture with others.

Food is a big part of life and is a big part of culture. You can eat traditional dishes from your own culture with your family and learn about your own heritage through recipes that have been passed down within your own family. Another way to bring people together through food and shared culture is to exchange recipes from different cultures. Not only does cultural expression through food allow us to be exposed to new flavors, but it also gives us an understanding of the diversity of flavors and cuisines in other cultures.

We live longer.

Sharing meals with the people you love can lead to a longer lifespan. It gives you a strong connection with the people in your community. 

It gives us comfort.

When you’re feeling down, what’s better than talking about it to your friends or family while eating some delicious food? Sharing food with a friend during times of trouble nourishes both our body and soul. Sometimes all we need is a meal that just hits the spot and takes us away from any emotional turmoil we have. It’s really comforting to have someone to share that meal with.

What opportunities does a virtual cooking class offer? 

In a virtual cooking class, people can be more comfortable, relaxed and open in their own kitchens. It is really fun being able to get a glimpse into people's lives and cooking experience.

What's your favorite Fustini's product? 

Choosing a favorite Fustini’s product is a tough question to answer. After a lot of thought, I really have two favorites. One is Cara Cara Vanilla Balsamic Vinegar. The other is Meyer Lemon Olive Oil. The flavors of both products are out of this world and they are both so versatile. They can be used in breakfast dishes, appetizers, salads, entrees, desserts and mixed drinks. The ways you can use them are endless.

What advice would you give someone new to cooking or eager to develop their skills? 

If someone is really interested in cooking, I always tell them to learn about the history of cooking. Don’t limit it to just French cooking, but explore all cultures and cuisines. Learn where cooking has come from and what it is today. Shadow someone and ask a lot of questions. 

It’s also really important to learn all the ins and outs of knife skills. Anyone can chop a carrot or an onion but being able to handle your knife with skill and speed is another. Using the skill to tourné vegetables properly, cutting mirepoix, julienne, brunoise and macedoine are the basics of cooking. 

Last but not least, the best way to improve their cooking skills would be to come and take a cooking class with me at Fustini’s! 

Get Cooking with Chef John VanderJagt

Guest chefs like Chef John VanderJagt bring entertainment and community through leading virtual cooking classes. Want to cook alongside John right from your own kitchen? Check out our upcoming class schedule and find a time and theme that sounds appetizing for you and your family. 

 

 

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