by Regina Mitchell
From the Editor: Regina is a scholarship winner who walked across the stage in 2017. She has been married to her husband Stan for thirty-six years and serves on the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada Board of Directors. She also serves as the affiliate’s scholarship chair. Her newest assignment is what moves her to write, and here is what she says:
A time, a season, and a purpose.
“My heart sang when I saw Exploring in the Kitchen on the [NFB National Convention] agenda, and I’m excited to get involved,” says a food blogger.
A man wrote, “I am interested in how to read labels, [learning] macro and micronutrients and their impact on blood sugar and the science behind cooking!”
A student attending the Louisiana Center for the Blind wrote, “I want to learn everything under the sun!”
A mom writes, “I am a busy mom. My challenges in the kitchen: time management, kid-friendly recipes for Instapot and coming up with quick and healthy options!”
Another woman writes, “I’m a home cook, who has fun in the kitchen. I am transitioning to a plant-based diet, and I love to bake!”
A dietician wrote, “If there is anything I can do to help, I would be more than happy to. This is a great thing, and I hope it gets more of us comfortable cooking.”
These, along with hundreds of other comments, are the feedback received following the presentation of ‘Exploring NFB In the Kitchen Group.’ The presentation took place at the 2021 National Convention of the NFB, Stronger Together.
My name is Regina Mitchell, and I am a classically trained chef. I began cooking as a teenager after tragedy struck our family. Cooking wasn't a challenge for me due to a heritage of talented home cooks featuring French Creole, Native American and African American cuisines. The first dinner I prepared was chicken enchiladas, a dinner salad, and iced cold Tang for my family of six at thirteen years of age.
I graduated with high honors from Seattle Culinary Academy and was awarded a British Fellowship to work overseas and to be mentored under the tutelage of master chefs. Returning to the United States nearly two years later, I was privileged to work in five-star restaurants with renowned chefs and as an entrepreneur with Fortune Five Hundred corporate executives. I later entered the hospitality industry in Las Vegas, Nevada, providing elite personalized services to global guests at the MGM Hotel and Resorts.
In 2012 I lost most of my sight due to a rare eye condition and was later diagnosed with Bilateral Panuveitis coupled with Sarcoidosis. Within thirty days, I lost my sight.
The career I had trained for as well as the culture in which I was immersed in, both culinary and hospitality, were suddenly gone. I was ravaged by grief, having known no one with blindness at this point nor having any idea of what it would look like nor what it would mean for my family, my future, nor myself.
I had no time to sit and consider any of the above questions. Years prior, I made a promise to my husband to complete university and what a perfect segue. In the spring of 2013, I became a full-time returning student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. During my junior year, I discovered the National Federation of the Blind through the National Scholarship Program. I was honored to be selected as a finalist, attending my first NFB National Convention in Orlando, Florida, receiving the STEM Oracle scholarship as a 2017 Cohort. I graduated in 2018 with high honors, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and neuroscience.
Through a turn of events and a step of faith, I stepped back into the kitchen as a chef instructor teaching blind and low-vision individuals. Then in March of 2020, the pandemic hit us all hard, leaving us isolated and sheltered in place. Slowly programming resumed, and we all entered the virtual world of connectivity, through learning and receiving education. But what about cooking? Let’s take cooking virtual!
So, (comma added) with lots of research and huge support from the Blindconnect Mobility Training Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, a virtual pilot cooking series for blind people began. It became a great success. The virtual classes are centered on teaching the art of cooking to students, using their other four senses.
I realized I had to go beyond just cooking and teaching by hearing, listening, touching, and smelling. I had to also use descriptive language and follow my instincts to develop a new way of cooking and teaching which I call “Intuitive Cooking.” Necessity is the mother of invention, and this is a skill I never thought to use as a sighted chef whose eyes were always in charge.
I discovered that if I allowed my mind and body to actually function as one whole, syncing my body with my mind during the cooking process rather than my eyes being in charge, my brain would be in charge, and my natural intuition would begin to orchestrate a culinary symphony. For me the result of this mind and body interaction was magnificent.
Due to the forward thinking and innovative approach to cooking with blindness, I’ve been featured as an Influencer, both nationally and globally. Most recently, I have been appointed chair of the new national group, NFB in the Kitchen for Food Enthusiasts: Resources and Advocacy to Advance the Accessibility of Online Cooking, Independence, and Self-reliance in the Kitchen.
The passion is for the love of cooking and the feeling cooking gives me. My joy, even when life has placed upon us tremendous pain, has often been found in the kitchen.
The reason for the NFB in the Kitchen Group is to pull like-minded people together for the purposes of learning to cook with blindness, overcoming real fears, and creating healthy meals independently.
NFB in the Kitchen is a group that aspires to:
I am enthusiastic about getting people into the kitchen. I want to stir up that desire and address the fears and obstacles and open up culinary conversations about food, culture, and lifestyle—about eating, cooking, and gathering multicultural snapshots of our food world.
Let’s talk about what you can’t do, what you’re afraid to do, and why we don’t have time to do it. Let’s crack the code to seemingly impossible recipes, food apps, and non-accessible equipment. We are tens of thousands strong, and now we have a safe space to share our food journey no matter our skillset. Let’s step into a brave, new world and make the kitchen our friend again.
For everything there is a time, a season, and, a purpose. Now is the time for NFB in the Kitchen Group. Come and join us. Follow the link below to sign up as a subscriber.
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To contact Regina Mitchell, write to [email protected]
CNN The Human Factor Dr. Sanja Gupta
LOS ANGELES TIMES Sunday Food Edition
Hadley Podcast - Conversation with the Experts
ADNA Audio Description Narrators of America with Roy Samuelson
Tim Black on Air - Blind Like Me