KEARNEY – Before becoming the University of Nebraska at Kearney Dining Hall executive chef almost two years ago, Andy Decker owned and operated high-end restaurants in New York City and Jersey Shore.
Decker brings that culinary experience to his cooking tutorial, Chef Andy: Cooking 101, which takes place twice each semester on the UNK campus.
Open to all students, faculty and staff, Decker prepares dishes based on a new theme for each cooking tutorial, and he allows students the opportunity to cook as well.
“(Tutorial themes) deal with healthy or sustainable cooking, others with ease, others with ethnic themes,” Decker said.
In honor of the beginning of Lent and in conjunction with the Mardi Gras celebration, Decker and his assistant, sous chef Alvin Mayes, recently taught students how to make Étouffée, a New Orleans Cajun-style dish consisting of a rice base with shrimp smothered in a spicy sauce.
As head chef, Decker is responsible for menu planning, ordering products, inventory and cost controls, developing recipes, providing nutritional information and catering. But he especially enjoys sharing his culinary expertise with UNK students.
Decker’s Cooking 101 tutorials often include practical and sustainable recipes that students can prepare in their dorm rooms.
“We started these two semesters ago as a way to show basic techniques that students could use to prepare meals,” said Decker, who graduated from New York’s French Culinary Institute in 2002. “This is a way to show how to save money by eating in, as well as an opportunity to highlight and showcase some healthy options as well.”