Culinary student strives to help others conquer their cooking fears


Ramen, frozen chicken nuggets, fast food runs and lack of time and money leave many BYU students singing the macaroni and cheese blues.

In an effort to end kitchen illiteracy and educate college students, culinary student Nisa Burns announced the October 2012 release of her first recipe book, “Kitchenability 101: The College Student’s Guide to Easy, Healthy, and Delicious Food.”

Burns, the rising “Chef of a New Generation,” hopes to start a culinary revolution, helping students build their confidence in the kitchen using fresh, inexpensive ingredients and preparing them in the appliances most accessible to college students.

“I dream for everyone involved with this book to have an experience,” Burns said in a telephone interview from Virginia. She hopes that readers will be able to “create something that is simple, successful and meaningful.”

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Nisa Burns author of "Kitchenability 101"
The idea for “Kitchenability” sparked when Burns made a life-changing decision to stop pursuing a nursing degree and enrolled at the Art Institute of Virginia Beach. The culinary student, who will graduate in the coming weeks, began sending emails to close friends and blogging about simple, fun recipes others could try out to ease their cooking woes. Burns later decided to contact an editor and pitch her idea, a cookbook for those who may just be capable of boiling water.

“Lemon Cilantro Chicken is a recipe dear to my heart,” Burns explained as she told of how a friend with severe food allergies inspired the creation of this meal. “I love to take care of people. Giving something and seeing that light on their face makes me so happy.”

This mentality of cooking not only for yourself but also for others may just be the answer BYU student Kelsea Goodrich is looking for. A junior from Fort Worth, Texas, Goodrich said, “I think it’s hard to cook for one person. I don’t feel inspired, it’s easier to just get a bowl of cereal.”

Megan Maxwell, a junior majoring in family studies, adjusted well to cooking for two. However, as a newlywed her kitchen is filled with wedding gifts she often does not know how or when to use.

Speaking of appliances and kitchen gadgets, Maxwell said, “I look in our kitchen sometimes and think, ‘I don’t use this. I don’t know what that is for.’ Like our lemon juicer, when will I use that?”

Counseling students in a similar situation, Burns said, “Don’t overwhelm yourself, build your confidence level with simple things. Pull one item out at a time, learn how to use it and then branch out.”

Burns created recipes primarily catered to students who are just beginning to cook. She recognized the difficulty college students face and has recipes that can be prepared in microwaves, without any appliances, or even on dreaded coil burners. Recipes vary from avocado wraps to pumpkin muffins to something as simple as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

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Avocado Lettuce Wraps, a featured recipe from Burns' cookbook
To those who think their culinary career began and ended with a fried egg, Burns added, “Don’t be afraid to try. If you feel like you are constantly failing, don’t call yourself a bad cook. If you can conquer something as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich, you’ll be ready to move on, and you’ll want to.”

Her book is currently available for pre-order at, and Burns will begin a tour of various college campuses in September. Visit her website,, for more information.



Burns recommends that students initially purchase only a few essential kitchen items:

  • a blender
  • a silicone mixing spoon
  • measuring spoons and cups
  • a mixing bowl
  • a 4-quart pot
  • possibly a sauté pan
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