Chef teaches blind, visually impaired Las Vegans to cook

Los Angeles native Gerald Ward began his career at Barona Resort &Casino near San Diego in 2006, and started culinary school at the same time. He moved to Las Vegas in 2009 to take care of his ailing grandfather, and later attended Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Las Vegas. An externship in Alaska followed, as did jobs at Coco’s Bakery Restaurant, Gallagher’s Steakhouse at New York-New York, the Clark County School District and Red Square at Mandalay Bay.

For four years he taught culinary classes for men, women and at-risk youth “at just about every (correctional facility) in Vegas.” On April 30, Ward was named executive chef at the Blind Center of Nevada’s new Greatness Center, where he oversees a culinary-arts academy for blind students and is working to establish the center as a location for private events.

Review-Journal: Always in your fridge at home?

Gerald Ward: Eggs, milk and cheese.

Currently obsessed with?

Kitchen tools — baking tools, just anything that’s going to make my mind go crazy when I’m making a new product.

Newest Las Vegas discovery?

The Blind Center. I didn’t know something like this existed. I saw the ad online and applied for it.

Favorite indulgence?

Going to the music studio to record and write music and rap.

I never eat …

Seafood. I’m allergic to shellfish.

Favorite brunch at home?

A Monte Cristo.

Best tip for home cooks?

Control your flame. If you put your pan on the stove and don’t watch how hot it is, it’ll burn something.

What are trying to do at the Blind Center?

I’m trying to give people a chance to know that just because they’re blind, it doesn’t mean it’s over. I have members here who haven’t cooked in 30 years. One of the guys was a sous chef on the Strip when he lost his sight. Just to give him that chance, he’s so happy to get back in there. There’s so many tools I’m finding are good to use in the kitchen if you lose your sight.

How did you learn how to teach visually impaired people to cook?

It’s all about adapting to your surroundings, being able to take the equipment you’re given and make a gourmet meal. When I taught classes in the prisons, they didn’t have knives; we cut everything with a dough cutter. I have to make sure they’re not going faster than they should be going. And we use a lot of timers.

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

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