In spring 2022, the Gastronomy Program presented a three part event, Recipes for Accessibility, as part of the Boston University Diversity and Inclusion Learn More series and sponsored by BU D&I. The goal of this series was to highlight the culinary prowess and experiences of disabled chefs, while also sparking conversations and a deeper understanding of how ableism, as well as adaptability, function in food spaces. This blog post features the recordings of the three virtual events, which included two cooking demos and one roundtable featuring disabled folks and allies.
Cooking Demonstrations: Every day, people with disabilities prepare delicious, nourishing food for themselves and others—yet food media hardly ever portray the disabled cook. In these virtual events, Alexis Hillyard, creator of Stump Kitchen, and Brian Charlson, former Director of Technology at the Carroll Center for the Blind each demonstrated a recipe that is important to them, and spoke about their culinary approaches. This event aims to celebrate the skills and experiences of disabled cooks, while also cultivating an understanding of how ableism and adaptability function in food spaces.
Cooking Demo with Alexis Hillyard, creator of Stump Kitchen
Alexis Hillyard (she/her) is a queer and disabled YouTube Creator, self-taught vegan chef, and entrepreneur. Born without her left hand, Alexis uses her stump as a kitchen tool – from spatula to juicer – while expanding the vocabulary of what’s possible in the kitchen each week on her YouTube show ‘Stump Kitchen.’ Stump Kitchen is a YouTube series that celebrates body diversity, gluten free vegan cooking, and the amazing, unique ways we move through the world. In 2016 & 2018, Stump Kitchen won Best Food Blog in VUE Magazine’s Best of Edmonton, Canada. In 2017 Alexis was named the first Canadian Ambassador to the Lucky Fin Project, an organization dedicated to limb difference awareness, education, and celebration. Alexis was also awarded the Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada for her Stump Kitchen work, which is one of the highest honours that Canada can bestow on its citizens.
Cooking Demo with Brian Charlson, former Director of Technology at the Carroll Center for the Blind
While living in Salem Oregon in the early 80s, Brian Charlson owned and operated “Brian’s Place”, a 52 seat cafeteria in a state office building. While he enjoyed the work, he didn’t enjoy the pay and moved on to work for the Oregon State Senate as the Sargent at Arms. After moving to Massachusetts, Brian Charlson was the Director of Technology at the Carroll Center for the Blind where he directed their Technology Training Programs both on CCB’s campus and in the community. In addition to overseeing the agencies general technology needs, he also oversaw the Accessibility Services program wherein a team of highly qualified user testers and web developers work with for-profit, non-profit and governmental companies and organizations to be sure that their web sites and services are fully accessible for blind and visually impaired users.
Brian has presented on adaptive technology subjects at numerous local, national and International conferences. He has also worked with such companies as Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Comcast and Yahoo to improve the accessibility of their products and services.
His love for cooking became an at-home activity where he cooks for family and bakes for charities. His last bake of cookies sold for $360, $10.00 a cookie.
He is now remodeling a “just for fun” kitchen in his basement where he intends to host a podcast for those who cannot use their vision to cook, tentatively titled “Brian’s Man Cave Kitchen”.
Recipes for Accessibility: Roundtable Discussion
How can we create more accessible, inclusive kitchens, recipes, food media, and more? In this virtual roundtable, Tracy Williams, nutrition advocate, Shaun Chavis founder of LVNGbook, Jonathan Katz author of Flavors of Diaspora blog, and Kristie Cabrera, occupational therapist & urban farmer reimagine a food world without ableism.
Meet the Roundtable Speakers:
Tracy Williams (she/her) earned her degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Dominican University. She loves to promote appropriate nutrition choices for the general population as well as peers with various disabilities. She has been a nutrition presenter for Abilities Expo Chicago focusing on adaptive cooking, meal planning, healthy lifestyle goals as well as mental health. She enjoys freelance writing, especially in Push Living, Abilities Buzz, and Disability Horizons. She served as a consultant with Food Dignity to create educational modules related to mental health and disability for their partner organizations as well as other projects.
Shaun Chavis (she/her) is a food and health journalist and entrepreneur in Atlanta, Georgia. She is currently managing editor of Found, a health startup that offers weight care. Shaun also owns LVNGbook, a company that licenses healthy recipes. LVNGbook is part of the AgeTech Collaborative by AARP, and an AARP Innovation Labs Portfolio Company. Shaun has worked or written for Serious Eats, Time Inc. Books, Real Simple, Health, Sharecare, How Stuff Works, AllRecipes, SouthernLiving.com, and CookingLight.com. She’s passionate about addressing inequities in nutrition and dietetics and creating dietary advice that reflects America’s increasingly diverse population.
Jonathan Katz (he/his) is an autistic food blogger in the Washington DC area. He writes Flavors of Diaspora, a mostly Jewish history-themed food and cooking blog. He has also written about food for In Defense of Processed Food, Roads and Kingdoms, Jewish Currents, and the Jewish Daily Forward. He has written extensively about disability and neurodivergence in the kitchen. In his day job, he works for the US Department of Labor. This panel is completely separate from his employment.
Kristie Cabrera (she/her) is a neurodiverse, queer, and Latinx occupational therapist and urban farmer. Kristie is passionate about making nature spaces more accessible and inclusive for disabled and neurodiverse folx. Kristie hopes to collaborate with those who work on the land to unpack their own ableism and views of their body/mind, understand accessibility better, and identify ways to improve their site’s accessibility, inclusivity, and work culture. Kristie also has experience working in the food industry, particularly with creating inclusive culinary experiences. Kristie is currently raising funds and gathering resources so that she can one day start an educational and healing nature space that is designed through the lens of accessibility and inclusivity. She hopes this space can serve as a model for others.