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Cooking With Chef Alli

Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas 

When we arrived at 9 AM, the culinary kitchen at ICC West was already busy with Chef Alli Winter and her husband, Pat, preparing the food and tools for the cooking video-shoot scheduled for eleven. We brought over a van-full of equipment; cameras, lights, switch and mixer, recorder monitors and such. We had managed to get all the video equipment connected successfully in the Lab studio only six weeks earlier. Now we were taking it all out on location for the first time. I was plenty nervous about that. I tell people all the time that entrepreneurs have to get used to the ambiguity of not knowing for sure how things will turn out and I certainly had to keep reminding myself of that. 

We contracted with Chef Alli to come to Independence from her home in Mayetta, Kansas near Topeka as the first event of our new Fab Food Lab (FFL) project. From a list of eight possible topics to cover, we solicitated feedback using social media and our web site to choose the top topics to be covered in four videos. The winners were “Speedy Skillet Meals”, “Insta-pot 101“Tips for Choosing Fresh Produce” and “Healthy Mex.” 

I was amazed at Chef Alli’s ability to convey not only the information about the recipes themselves and related cooking, but she adds little tidbits of information about various ingredients and techniques. She doesn’t mess up and we will have to do little editing for the final videos. When they are ready, we will make announcements on social media and post links to the videos, along with the recipes on our Fab Food Lab page. (Click the tab at www.fablabicc.org.) 

The purpose of these videos, besides being fun, is to show people tips and techniques to prepare better, healthy and wholesome meals in less time. This fits in with the overall purpose of the Fab Food Lab project.  

Welcome to the Fab Food Project 

From the Fab Lab ICC web site: Welcome to the Fab Food Lab project. This project is sponsored by Verizon through its Verizon Community Institution COVID-19 Funding Response. This grant opportunity was made available to all schools participating in the Verizon Innovative Learning STEM program. Since 2018, ICC/Fab Lab ICC have participated in Rural Young Women's program for underserved middle school girls. 

With this program, we hope to address several issues within our region related to food insecurity. The program is dynamic and evolving, but preliminary plans are to offer a variety of food education and access opportunities for our community and surrounding area, including education on food growing, cooking, preservation and nutrition; an off-season farmers market; a farm-to-consumer trade show; community food prep space; support for food- and farm-based entrepreneurs and more. 

Early in the project, we caught a nice break when we convinced (she might say coerced) Barbara Ames, long time employee of the Wildcat Extension District, to be our contracted Project Lead just days after her retirement. She saw the value of the program and even though she said “I was hoping to have some time off to relax…” she hit the ground running. 

Barbara and, we found out, others had heard about Chef Alli and her passion for cooking and her mission to share her passion with people all across the Midwest. So, her mission fits in well with our FFL project. 

From Chef Alli’s About Us page (http://chefalli.com): 

I wanted to help more families and get more people cooking. I love to organize and deliver cooking campaigns that help families conquer dinner time. I long to share the wisdom of my experiences, cooking advice, and insider tips that will guide you to regularly prepare delicious meals for you and your family. I want you to know that it’s not nearly as hard as it seems, and that you can conquer your kitchen and be victorious. 

I remember being a busy mom and so intimidated and overwhelmed with how to prepare wholesome, nutritious meals that my family would actually eat and enjoy. I had limited time and a limited budget.  

I am no diet guru. I’m not trying to get you to lose weight or follow any strict rules or guidelines. I cook with all the food groups. My approach is simply about combining whole foods with real natural ingredients and creating delectable dishes to be enjoyed. 

While we all now think of Alli Winter as Chef Alli, she’s really an entrepreneur besides being such a great cook. She had to figure out how to get started in the cooking business and develop it over several years. I’m working with her busy schedule to do a podcast interview by Zoom. When it’s ready, we’ll post the link on social media as well as the Fab Food Lab project page. Chef Alli is another example of someone who has taken their passion and turned it into a business to help solve problem, helping people learn how to provide better meals and nutrition for their families. 

Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349 or by email at jcorrell@indycc.edu. Archive columns and podcasts at www.fablabicc.org. 


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