Nancy Turner’s kitchen is a well-known location among ELI students. In the back of Turner’s historic Newark home, the kitchen is where the very popular tutoring cluster known as “The Kitchen Class™” takes place. For many ELI students, it is a place that they remember fondly. Yet, just off the kitchen there is a less well-known but equally honorable location. There, on a series of placards on the south-facing wall, is a list of names that Turner holds dear. Some might call it a Hall of Fame for the Kitchen Class™, but Turner just calls it the HOOTS.
HOOTS, short for The Honorable Order Of the Spoons, is a title that Kitchen Class™ students can gain after attending the class for three sessions, or a total of six months. As of the last Kitchen Class™ session, 234 students held the honor.
In February of this year, HOOTS celebrated its 10-year anniversary. HOOTS has been an important element of the Kitchen Class™ ever since Turner developed it two years into the class’s history. To recognize this important milestone, the ELI had planned to publish a story in early spring about Turner and her class, but that’s when the madness of COVID-19 struck in Delaware. With staff and faculty rushing to make online classes, the HOOTS anniversary story, unfortunately, fell to the wayside.
However, here in May, as the dust from the transition has settled and people all over the world have had the opportunity to reflect on what they find most important, things like the Kitchen Class™ show their value all the more brightly. Globally, as people have been unable to leave their homes and eat in restaurants, there has been a migration back to the home kitchen. There, people are finding connection once again with their loved ones, and this has always been Turner’s philosophy of what the kitchen should be all about.
“I want [my students] to come in and take a deep breath and relax,” Turner explained during her interview in March. “I tell them at the beginning of the session that this is like visiting with your American neighbor.”
Throughout the Kitchen Class’s history, Turner has shown the importance of genuine connection not just through her words, but also through her actions. From the home cooked meals that she teaches the students to make, to the special set of measuring spoons that she gives to HOOTS recipients, Turner invests a strong sense of personal connection in each Kitchen Class™ session that she teaches. In fact, the set of spoons she gives to HOOTS recipients have a special level of personal connection for Turner — they are modeled after a set Turner once received from her grandmother.
“Most of the recipes [used in class] came from my family,” Turner explained. “I’m the product of some really great cooks from down south. A lot of southern influence there.”
To honor Turner for the HOOTS 10-year anniversary, and to show how the Kitchen Class™ has given its alumni important skills for this period of stay-at-home cooking, the ELI reached out to some Kitchen Class ™ alumni to see what they are cooking right now, and several of them responded.
And really, what better way is there to see the impact Turner has had than to hear it from the students themselves?
I would like to congratulate you that the Kitchen Class has had 10 years! This class is so successful and gave us a wonderful memory there. I still remember the class situation, the food smell and your enthusiasm during the class. This class let me learn a lot of Western cooking style. It was so fun. When I think back to those days in the ELI, I felt so lucky to choose your class. I’d like to thank you that you inspire me to cook. Congrats!
Congrats, my dear. Thank you for those delicious lessons you taught us. Happy 10th anniversary for your successful class, Nancy.
I learned a lot from Nancy about American culture. She’s very passionate with what she’s doing, and she transferred that spirit to us, the students. One of the best moments I had during my grad-life at the ELI and UD was from February-August 2011.