by Kevin Burton
How does a blind person prepare a meal? The methods vary, but always include great attention to detail.
On one of my Facebook groups I stumbled upon an announcement about a TV show featuring blind cooks. It’s called the Cooking Without Looking TV Show. I caught the monthly zoomcast version of the show in December and again in January. There is also a podcast that runs on an irregular schedule, maybe once or twice a week.
This is the only television show featuring blind people. This is blind people telling their own story and keeping it real.
Renee Rentmeester is the show’s Creator and Executive Producer. She’s the only one involved with the show who is not visually impaired. She is fully sighted but she speaks my language. She gets it.
“Changing the way we see blindness” is the show’s motto. The target audience is “everybody,” according to Rentmeester.
“We don’t want people to feel sorry. We put the focus on ability not disability,” she said. “We want employers to understand people who are blind can do all these things.”
That’s exactly the way I approached beep baseball when I coached from 2009 to 2015. What better way to demonstrate the capabilities of the blind than showing them achieving at a high level?
Blind baseball makes for great television and so does Cooking Without Looking.
“Blind people cooking are actually safer than sighted people because they’re thinking about what they’re doing,” Rentmeester said.
Watching the December show, I briefly felt out of my depth. The featured cook was Chef Regina Mitchell. She is a classically-trained chef who traveled the world studying under master chefs, then had a high level job in hospitality at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, before losing her vision.
She started talking about aerating something and I thought, oh boy, better stick to my mac and cheese.
I needn’t have worried. In fact the show is marinated in encouragement, suitable for cooks of all experience levels.
“Have no fear. Don’t be afraid of mistakes,” is Rentmeester’s message to blind people just learning to cook.
“Finding a way that works for you is the right thing,” said Sylvia Perez, a featured guest on the show, who works for the National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University. “There is no one way to do it, as long as it is safe.”
“Get in the kitchen and try something. Start somewhere,” agrees contributor Jose Cintron.
Cintron is from Florida Vision Technology. He demonstrates technology and makes sure viewers know that all the kitchen timers, talking thermometers and the like that cooks talk about on the show are available from his company.
Chef Regina on the December show told new cooks to “make the kitchen your friend.”
She said beginners who fear the stovetop and oven should start by preparing salads or other dishes that don’t require heat. She explained how to cut foods with the
fingertips of the non-cutting hand pointing up. “Because as I always say, you start with ten, you want to finish with ten.”
It’s about safety, comfort level, familiarity, confidence.
Featured January cook Michael Dougherty plainly said on the show he is not a chef. He’s more of a technician, which is what most of us are in the kitchen. Dougherty spoke of using a fork to find food in a skillet or baking dish, as you would use a cane in public.
For his chicken-broccoli casserole he used rotisserie chicken from a local supermarket.
Host Allen Preston steers the conversations with cooks toward how they are using their other senses in the kitchen, listening for sizzling or boiling, getting information from their sense of smell, using touch at times.
Recipes featured on the zoomcast are posted on the website, at http://www.cookingwithoutlookingtv.wordpress.com.
The show’s podcast is viewed in countries around the world. It is available on more than a dozen platforms including iTunes, Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
Cooking Without Looking started as a show on the local PBS station in West Palm Beach Florida. After the first three seasons it has continued in other formats.
Rentmeester got her start in television as in intern at an ABC station in Green Bay and later worked in marketing for the local CBS station in Miami.
The next zoomcast is one week from tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 12 at 2 p.m. Central. Host Annette Watkins will present one of her recipes. The show will also feature a blind couple navigating the kitchen together.
For more information, visit the Cooking Without Looking TV Show page on Facebook.