Club Spotlight: Cats in the Kitchen


Courtesy of Cats in the Kitchen

Cats in the Kitchen club members pose during a meeting.

Zoe Manning, Staff Writer

If you are looking to learn how to cook basic meals on your own, or simply to perfect your existing kitchen skills, Cats in the Kitchen is the club for you.

Cats in the Kitchen runs weekly cooking sessions in the kitchen of Dougherty Hall. Each session is centered around a specific meal, with around 10 to 15 students in attendance for each meeting. Past meetings included training sessions for meals such as omelets, pizza, stir fry, burritos and pasta. The meetings are led and instructed by three chefs who work within Villanova Dining Services. These chefs are Gail Mitchell (Chef Nutritionist), Chris Wiseley (Executive Chef of Residential Dining) and Jose Gonzalez (Executive Chef of Donahue Court). They are responsible for the technicalities of each meeting, as well as instructing each training session. Members of Cats in the Kitchen are encouraged to reach out to the chefs or the club’s executive board with any ideas for future training courses, though there are exciting courses coming up in the near future.

Fortunately for students, membership and courses are free, and no prior equipment is needed. However, due to the importance of safety in the kitchen, students must sign waivers and abide by a dress code that includes wearing pants and closed-toed shoes, which are the only prerequisites. 

President Nicholas Barone shared why his own background in cooking inspired him to start Cats in the Kitchen.

“Like many other students, I grew up spoiled by my parents’ cooking, but never really put in the effort to learn how to do so independently,” he said. “I lived on campus with a meal plan my first three years at Villanova, but I knew that my senior year would have me off campus and without [a meal plan]. Naturally, I looked into joining whatever student organization was going to teach me how to cook. To my surprise, there were over 130 student organizations at the time, but not one of them was centered around cooking. I saw the vacancy as an opportunity to start something worthwhile.” 

Barone had three goals for his vision of what Cats in the Kitchen would entail.

“First, I wanted something that was easy to join for any students with legitimate interest,” he said. “Secondly, I did not want the club to be seen as a laborious commitment; rather, something fun and lighthearted that people can look forward to. And lastly, it needed to be informative and educational, involving hands-on training. Fortunately, all of these qualities were made possible once we partnered with Villanova Dining Services.” 

Chef Chris Wiseley, the Executive Chef, Resident Dining Halls for Villanova Dining Services, oversees the culinary operations in Doughtery Hall, Donahue Hall and St. Mary’s Hall while working with chefs and managers in the dining halls. He explained the benefits for students of joining Cats in the Kitchen and attending training sessions.

“The benefits for students joining Cats in the Kitchen is to introduce them to basic skills techniques, and equipment in the kitchen that they can carry with them the rest of their lives,” Wiseley said. “It also introduces them to the fun that can be had in the kitchen and not to be afraid in the kitchen to try new recipes and ingredients.” 

Furthermore, Gail Mitchell, Chef Nutritionist for Villanova Dining Services, shared that “[Students] will learn simple kitchen techniques to create an array of dishes in their own homes. It’s also a fun way to connect with other students who have an interest in learning how to cook.”  

Cats in the Kitchen welcomes everyone, with members having a wide range of kitchen experience. People who already know how to cook a few meals and have some culinary skills in their back pocket are welcome to come and add to their skillsets. On the other hand, those who have absolutely no experience in the kitchen can learn the basics during training sessions. All the chefs who instruct the training sessions are able to work with students with a range of abilities and are very understanding, so they “truly could not be easier to work with,” Barone stated.

Although Cats in the Kitchen does not have any social media presence yet, students who are interested can reach out to Nick Barone via email at [email protected] or text at 347-838-0579. Club membership has expanded in recent months, and members of the executive board are thrilled see it grow.