In the kitchen with Bob and Lisa

 In Editing, Writing

Two of Clark’s busiest leaders join students to prepare a simple, nutritious summertime meal

 President Knight wants to know: “Where’s the meat?”


Robert Knight, Clark College president, loves bacon. But he’s not a fan of tofu. Then he joined Lisa Gibert, president/CEO of Clark College Foundation, and Jonathan Dutson, a Clark Machining student, in the kitchen to prepare a simple summertime spring roll recipe—with marinated tofu. The experience changed his mind about the soybean product.

Two of the busiest people at Clark—Knight and Gibert—met at Clark’s Columbia Tech Center campus kitchen to prepare the meal from scratch. Then they sat together with students to share their experience. What transpired was friendly banter about tofu, bacon, fresh peaches and fond memories of family vacations.

The group was led by Chef Sara O’Leary, who teaches culinary courses for Clark’s Economic and Community Development workforce training and continuing education division. In addition to teaching, she uses her master’s in nutrition and dietetics to coach individuals about how to use food as medicine. Eating nourishing foods like fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds each day can heal the body, reduce the need for medication, create better digestion and increase energy.

“Food is powerful. People don’t realize this until they make big changes and see it for themselves,” said O’Leary.

At the table, food is a form of sharing love, friendship and joy, she notes.

“There’s something about sitting at a meal together where you have something in common. It’s a prepared meal so you can talk about flavors and textures. It brings out a personality or history. Does it bring up childhood memories? The conversation just naturally flows. It’s magical to watch,” she said.

Watch Bob and Lisa prepare spring rolls

Spring rolls

Turns out those vegetables wrapped in translucent paper found at local Thai restaurants or food carts are easy to make, even for busy professionals.

“My talent here is I don’t cook. I just don’t have time to cook,” said Gibert, who has been running Clark College Foundation since 2005. To her surprise, the preparation for spring rolls mostly entails cutting vegetables and rolling them into a thin rice paper.

O’Leary instructs Gibert and others to “start by taking the edge closest to you and roll the rice paper over the top of the veggies. Then take the corners and fold those in to seal the ends.” The rolling process occurs after the rice paper is quickly dipped in a pan of water to make it pliable.

There are a variety of ingredients that can make up spring rolls. Vegetables and herbs such as cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, red bell peppers, lettuce, basil and cilantro are favorites. Protein options are tofu, shrimp or even Knight’s favorite.

“Where’s the meat? Looks like fake bacon to me,” said Knight when he scooped tofu onto his rice paper.

“This is marinated, baked tofu. It has lovely flavor,” replied O’Leary.

“You’ve convinced me to try tofu,” said Knight.

Tofu just out of the package has a bland taste. That’s why O’Leary adds soy sauce, maple syrup and garlic powder to a bowl of extra firm, cubed tofu, then marinates it for 30 minutes to an hour. Use pre-baked tofu and there’s no need for additional baking.

Once the spring roll is ready to eat, the group dips into a homemade peanut sauce.

“I’m tasting the peanut sauce. I’m not tasting the tofu,” said Knight. “It fits right in with it. It’s good. I was skeptical about tofu before this.”

Fond food memories

A college campus is a place where a community comes together to share food experiences. Whether it is pizza, ice cream, spinach salad or spring rolls, everyone eats and likes to talk about their favorite dishes or memories of food at events such as family gatherings.

After Knight, Gibert and Dutson prepared their summer dish, they invited students to sit down and enjoy the meal and a peach crumble dessert over conversation. They shared stories about how their families and friends gather around food and what it means to them.

Jacquie Brüchert’s ’17 family likes to experiment with fare from different cultures. “We like to try all types of food. For my mom’s birthday we get Ethiopian food.”

Jonathan Dutson often cooks up Italian or Mexican plates. “I like to make Alfredo sauce with jalapeños so that the sauce soaks up the spicy flavor of the chili pepper. I like to experiment by adding all kinds of spices and seasonings.”

Breakfast is the best time for Sara Moe ’17 and her family.  “It’s a big meal that we all like to gather for to have eggs, fresh fruit and biscuits. It’s when my whole family can meet.”

Family gatherings create unforgettable food experiences. Fish fries are one of Knight’s fondest memories.

“I grew up catching shrimp in Florida. Over Fourth of July every summer, the family on my father’s side would get together at Lake Kissimmee for vacation and to fish. We’d have a big fish fry and everyone would bring something. We had delicious catfish, speckled perch, trout and bass. It was fun because it was a time for family to get together,” he recalled.

Watch how the McClaskey Culinary Institute will encourage a closer community at Clark and add value to the cuisine industry in SW Washington

Gathering around food

The act of gathering around a table to eat with others can form and solidify friendships and camaraderie. Having the opportunity to share a meal with others between classes or on a lunch break on the main Clark campus is about to get even better with the opening of the Tod and Maxine McClaskey Culinary Institute this fall. Moreover, with a complete redesign of the Cuisine and Professional Baking curriculums students will receive quality instruction that is relevant to the industry’s current expectations.

“It’s going to take the program to the next level,” said Knight. “We’ve got a state-of-the-art facility that will give students better jobs in the restaurant business. There will be vegan, vegetarian and multicultural food offerings. And students will learn how to manage people as part of their programs.”

The name that will be on the outside of the building may be familiar to those who have lived in Southwest Washington for decades—Tod and Maxine McClaskey Culinary Institute.

“Tod McClaskey got his start in the restaurant business with The Frontier Room in downtown Vancouver and then started the Red Lion Motor Inn chain with Ed Pietz,” said Gibert. “Having the McClaskey name on this facility because of a $4 million donation from The Tod and Maxine McClaskey Family Foundation means that their legacy of quality customer service and excellent food preparation will live on in our community.”

Superior service and a firm knowledge of the hospitality, food and beverage industry is paramount to the growth around food that is underway in Southwest Washington.

“Vancouver’s new waterfront, the surge in our population and the increase in the aging population all have food and beverage demands. Clark will play a major part in preparing individuals to work in those local areas,” said Gibert, adding “Our partnerships will lend themselves to relationships with restaurants, taprooms, lounges, hospitality and eldercare.”

The McClaskey Culinary Institute opens in September 2017, with three food kiosks, a full-service baking retail store, barista bar, grab-and-go food options and a gathering space for patrons. Next year, a fourth kiosk and student-run restaurant will open.

Fresh Spring Rolls

By Sara O’Leary, MS, RDN, LD

Any combination of these ingredients:

Purple cabbage
Red bell pepper
Green leaf lettuce, torn into pieces
Rice noodles
Rice paper sheets
Wildwood Baked Savory or Royal Thai Tofu, extra firm


Cut the veggies into thin strips and arrange on a large platter. Pull the herbs from the stems, and prepare the rice noodles according to the package instructions.

Rice paper

Dip rice paper sheets in warm water one at a time for about 10 seconds until soft and pliable, but still a little firm. Lay the rice paper on a cutting board or damp tea towel. Working on the bottom third of the rice paper, layer the noodles, tofu, vegetables and herbs. Fold up the bottom edge to cover the filling, then fold in the sides and roll tightly.

Serve with peanut sauce.


Peanut Sauce

By Sara O’Leary, MS, RDN, LD

This tasty sauce can be enjoyed as a dressing over greens or roasted vegetables, as a dipping sauce for spring rolls, or thinned and used to toss with pasta. Substitute almond butter for peanut butter, and use dried ginger if fresh is not available.

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons low-sodium tamari
2 dates, soaked until soft, drained, pits removed
Juice of 1 lime
1/3 cup peanut butter
1⁄3 cup water: More or less as needed to reach desired consistency.


Place all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth and creamy.


Raw Vegan Peach Cobbler

By Christine Roseberry, RN

Yield: 4 servings

4 medium peaches

2 peaches
2 Medjool dates, pitted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup almonds, soaked 6+ hours, drained then rinsed
1/2 cup raw shredded coconut
6 Medjool dates, pitted
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Making the crust

Blend the almonds and shredded coconut in a food processor until the mixture becomes a coarse crumble; add the dates and cinnamon and pulse blend until it is well mixed as a crumble. Be sure not to over process it to the point that it becomes mushy.

Press a small amount of the crumble into the bottom of a small bowl. Cut the peaches into large chunks and place in a bowl.

Making the syrup

Blend the peaches, dates, vanilla and cinnamon until the syrup becomes smooth. Pour the syrup over the peaches and mix together in the bowl.

Layer filling and crumble in small bowl, ending with crumble on top. Add whipped cream for an added treat.


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