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What's cooking

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

Original, deluxe, homestyle and easy mac; three cheese, four cheese, sharp cheddar, white cheddar, spiral noodle and whole-wheat noodle.

Kraft Dinner comes in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours with one common theme: it’s insanely easy to make.

-Put water into a pot.
-Boil water.
-Stir macaroni into boiling water.
-Cook 7-to-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
-Drain macaroni, return to pan.
-Add butter, milk and cheese sauce mix. Stir together.

It’s safe to assume that was the extent of cooking experience to be had by the majority of Vancouver Canucks prospects before they were transformed into amateur chefs Friday afternoon.

As part of 2012 Vancouver Canucks Development Camp the 35 prospects were put through the paces of an educational cooking class in the Captain’s Room at Rogers Arena. Split into two groups the prospects underwent a nutrition challenge before rolling their sleeves up and getting a demonstration from Canucks executive chef David Speight.

They chopped, peeled, sliced, minced, cut, seasoned, grated, stirred, squeezed, rolled, basted, whisked, sautéed, julienned and finally tasted a trio of dishes all based on cooking a pork butt overnight in a slow cooker.

A pre-cooked pork butt was ready and waiting for chef Speight as he showed the prospects how to prepare pulled pork sliders, quesadillas and tacos; step-by-step the players learned how to create three similar yet different meals that appear intimidating, but are actually a breeze.

To ensure the information was actually sinking in for the guys, who were salivating and growing hungrier by the second, Speight had volunteers chop peppers and cabbage. Although reluctant to give it a go at first, defenceman Frankie Corrado proved he knows his way around a kitchen.

“Coming from an Italian family I learned a lot from my parents about cooking,” revealed Corrado, who sliced the cabbage without issue. “I don’t cook a lot during the season, my billets really take care of me that way, but when they’re not around I’m more than capable of feeding myself.”

That wasn’t always the case.

“I didn’t realize how important proper nutrition is until I started playing the OHL. Then it took me about a year to realize the toll it takes on your body when you’re not eating well. That first year wasn’t pretty, but I got through it. The meals were always really basic. There was never an extra with it. No spices, none of that stuff.

“It’s just like hockey actually, you learn as you go. As time goes on you have more confidence with that you’re doing, so you do a little more and a little more.”

The prospects are now equipped with not only the knowledge of how to devour pork butt, they also understand the correlation between what they eat and becoming professional athletes.

In the long run, nutrition is as important to helping them achieve long-term goals as anything else. Once in the NHL, the Never Hungry League, food and nutritional guidance is readily available.

First things first.

Cooper Rush, a 6-foot-7, 230-pound defenceman from Oakville, Ontario, knows a thing or two about eating and Friday’s cooking class changed the way he looks at things.

The king of grilled cheese is going to focus on his culinary skills moving forward.

“I’m not one to cook up a big meal, that’s for sure,” laughed Rush, attending camp on a tryout basis. “Seeing that class makes me think that eating right isn’t really that difficult, maybe I’ll try and make some of that stuff we learned when I get home.”

Like Corrado, Rush was quick to credit his billets and family for filling his belly with the food he needs to be in a position to impress the Canucks personnel. When he does take matters into his own hands, he’ll be confident doing so.

“It was helpful learning how to hold a knife for cutting,” he smiled. “I’ll try that for sure and now I know I won’t cut my own finger off.”

It’s a start.

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