Amay Tewari, Photography Editor

Assistant Director of the School of Management and Senior Executive Chef David Kuzma is trying to build a community among the students at SOM through virtual cooking classes. 

Kuzma first offered the online classes in the fall around once every week. The class typically lasts an hour and a half and is open to all students at SOM on a first-come, first-served basis. The meals vary and typically have a connection with a student.

“A while back, I was talking with a few students who told me how much they missed the pizza at Charley’s Place [a restaurant in SOM],” Kuzma wrote in an email to the News. “That got me thinking that we should have a virtual cooking class.”

Kuzma’s first cooking class was open to 50 students, and within the first 17 minutes all the spots were filled up. Due to the high demand, Kuzma expanded the next class to 100 students. 

Like the first time, spots filled up in under 20 minutes. Now, each event typically hosts 90 students.

“Based on the demand, we wanted to continue expanding and creating a space that gave them comfort during these times,” Kuzma wrote.

Kuzma believes that food is “very personal.” In order to preserve that intimacy, Kuzma’s cooking classes usually featured a dish from one of the students’ region. For example, Ana Kuntz SOM ’22 helped lead a cooking event with Kuzma to make Venezuelan arepas and Brazilian brigadeiros.

The duo worked as a team, with Kuzma doing most of the cooking while Kuntz made suggestions of improvements.

“It was great to … represent [the Association of Hispanic and Latin American Students] to introduce the dishes together with other colleagues from Latin America,” Kuntz wrote in an email to the News.

During classes, students are able to dive into the stories behind each dish, what was special about the dish and how it made them feel, Kuzma said.

In addition to the South American dishes that Kuntz suggested, Kuzma has also taught students how to make dim sum, biryani, chakalaka and pap and gumbo.

Kuzma describes his teaching style as “hands-on.” Because of this, he has had to quickly adapt to online learning.

“Going from in-person where we can share an experience together in one space — to speaking to a camera is a total shift,” Kuzma wrote. “I’m definitely not camera shy, but not being able to feel the energy of the students in the room, or walking over to checking on their technique … it’s been tough.”

Kuzma said that it has been difficult to feel the “passion and connection” from students to his food and feel a sense of friendship and family when he is teaching online. To try to combat that, Kuzma said he focuses on creating “as much of a connection with the audience” as he can through friendly conversation and jokes. 

One of Kuzma’s students, Sadie McQuilkin SOM ‘22, has noticed Kuzma’s efforts at creating an enjoyable online learning environment.

“Chef Dave brings so much energy and passion to his virtual cooking classes — it’s a fast-paced, exciting learning experience,” McQuilkin wrote in an email to the News.

Kuntz also described the events as a great break from regular classes where students can relax, have fun and eat.

“One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned has been that you can’t break community,” Kuzma wrote. “Even though people have been physically apart this past year, I’m grateful that we were able to still find ways to connect, break bread and keep strengthening bonds no matter what.”

The School of Management was founded in 1976. 

Alex used to cover all things the Divinity School. Now, she serves as Weekend Editor. She's a junior in Trumbull majoring in English.