Kitchen science  September 2010

S.O.S. Kitchen Therapy

Cooking is so-called occupational therapy: it involves all of your senses and has cognitive, motor, perception, social and emotional effects. Cooking even helps people with brain damage to become more autonomous and self-assured.

Chiara Ciracì, psychologist and neurophysiologist at Santa Maria ai Servi di Parma (Fondazione Don Carlo Gnocchi-Onlus) rehabilitation center.

Chiara Ciracì, psychologist and neurophysiologist at Santa Maria ai Servi di Parma (Fondazione Don Carlo Gnocchi-Onlus) rehabilitation center.

Matteo Manferdini

Fun in the kitchen

Cooking classes for students of all levels, organized by Academia Barilla: learn how to have fun while cooking

Do you think of cooking as a chore? That it is a waste of time and energy? That it is too difficult? Well then you might consider one of Academia Barilla’s new cooking classes that teach people the real joy of cooking.
In addition to courses for restaurant professionals and passionate home cooks, there are shorter, simpler classes geared towards people who just want to learn the basics.
“These classes last the time of a lunch break, from half and hour to an hour and a half. The goal is not only to teach out students some basic preparations, cooking methods and knife skills, but to make the process enjoyable for them,” explains Matteo Manferdini, chef at Academia Barilla. Being the best in the class is not important and neither is participating. What is really important is that everyone has fun.
“The kitchen is a world of shapes, colors, aromas and flavors, all to be discovered. Cooking is about the joy of preparing the ingredients and sharing the outcome with others.” The chef instructors do not emphasize creativity at the beginning. That comes once the students have learned the basics. The focus is making people smile.
For more information, visit Academia Barilla web site.

Ma. Vi.

Did you know that the act of preparing a simple pasta with tomato sauce can be truly therapeutic?
Can you remember the recipe that you read just a minute ago?
Can you maintain the order of cook-drain-sauce?
Do you know better than to grate the parmigiano in the cooking water or to mistake the basil for oil?
For people who have lost the ability to recognize a ladle or even pick it up with their hands, cooking has become a way for them to reconstruct their lives.
They put on an apron and try, again and again, to reactivate all of the damages parts of their body and mind.

“Although cooking may seem to require simple motor and cognitive skills, it actually stimulates the a wide range of the brain’s cognitive functions,” says Chiara Ciracì, psychologist and neurophysiologist at Santa Maria ai Servi di Parma (Fondazione Don Carlo Gnocchi-Onlus) rehabilitation center.
“Cooking is commonly believed to be a human prerogative, but learning to cook has developed over thousands of years of evolution, of small steps and progressive intellectual development.
The cognitive skills we use when we cook are different and more numerous.
They work in a parallel and sequential way.
As a matter of fact, we learn to cook at a relatively old age since it requires a certain degree of intellectual maturity.”

“Patients who have suffered from brain damage or progressive brain deterioration often have weakened motor and cognitive abilities. In cases like these, patients can really benefit from being in the kitchen. Cooking is considered an effective rehabilitation therapy for motor and cognitive skills.

To prepare a meal, from the most simple to the most elaborate, requires having the ingredients before our eyes and knowing what to do with them and in what order. It also requires the visible recognition of utensils and the ability to orient one’s self in the kitchen space.

Although recent studies argue that occupational therapy focuses on the acquisition of motor skills, and not the cognitive, psychological and social aspects of life, “from our point of view, occupational activities, and especially cooking, is a more holistic approach to pathology. Standing in front of a stove not only stimulates your motor and cognitive functions, but it allows patients to use their sense and try a new activity that can be relaxing, fun and gratifying. In addition, “cooking,” says Dr. Ciracì, “gives people dignity and improves their self-esteem. It gives them the chance to share an experience, socialize and feel good.”

Lorenza Beltrami, psychologist  and ucopational therapy coordinator, and hands-on cooking laboratories

Lorenza Beltrami, psychologist and occupational therapy coordinator, and hands-on cooking laboratories

Cooking can also help patients with irreversible brain damage. “We believe that cooking labs,” says Lorenza Beltrami, psychologist and director of occupational therapy at the rehabilitation institute of Parma, “we should also help patients with dementia because the actions of “doing” and “sharing” are important opportunities for stimulation, wellbeing and recognition.” Cooking gives them the chance to make new memories for a more flavorful future.

Mariagrazia Villa

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3 “S.O.S. Kitchen Therapy”

  1. Marco Polidori says:

    Salve, sono di Roma e sarei interessato ad avere maggiori informazioni sulla kitchen therapy. Nel corso della mia carriera lavorativa oltre che di studio mi sono interessato sia di aspetti cognitivi relativi alla comunicazione sia di enogastronomia, facendo il cuoco per molto tempo. Tuttora sono impegnato in questo settore come extra e allo stesso tempo sto cercando di mettere a frutto le mie conoscenze per dar vita ad una iniziativa socialmente utile.
    Con un mio collega abbiamo appunto pensato di finalizzare il piacere del cibo e della sua preparazione ad esigenze riabilitative e/o di supporto psicologico. Così abbiamo cominciato a cercare su Internet iniziative simili o affini.
    Considerando che la vostra filosofia è quella che vorremmo adottare nella nostra iniziative, ci farebbe piacere avere maggiori dettagli.
    Marco Polidori

  2. Italian Food Lovers Staff says:

    Gentile Marco,

    la ringraziamo per il suo commento.

    Per saperne di più sull’utilizzo delle attività di cucina nelle terapie occupazionali, può contattare:

    Centro di Riabilitazione Santa Maria ai Servi di Parma (Fondazione Don Carlo Gnocchi onlus):
    Piazzale dei Servi 3, Parma
    Tel. 0521.2054; fax: 0521.281299

    Può anche rivolgersi ai centri di riabilitazione afferenti alla Fondazione Don Carlo Gnocchi che si trovano a Roma, la sua città: il Centro Santa Maria della Pace e il Centro Santa Maria alla Provvidenza. Visiti il sito

    Sperando di esserle stati d’aiuto, le porgiamo un cordiale saluto,

    Redazione Italian Food Lovers

  3. Maja says:


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