Luan Nguyen, the owner of Wheelhouse Academy, believes that cooking is a skill that can be learned just like any exercise in the gym. That’s why he’s using quarantine to share his knowledge of nutrition and know-how around the kitchen to help people on Zoom with Cookin With Lu. Half cooking show and half class, he’s doing helping Birminghamians find their way around home cooking, one dish at a time. We caught up with him to talk about it, his new giveaway guaranteed to warm your heart.
Q: What is Cookin’ with Lu?
A: I own Wheelhouse Academy and we’ve taken our workouts online and a fitness community, gym, and a coach do so much more than just run a class and teach you the movements. There’s lots of nutritional talk. So, we started to think of ways outside of the norm than just running a workout online, because lots of gyms are doing that.
During this time, nutrition is a big topic. I just thought it was a great way to try to learn new recipes and new ideas for cooking. I love to cook in our family, and I can kind of get into the rut of making the same rotational pieces. Through talking to friends and members, people are running out of ideas to cook, or maybe they don’t know how to cook. It’s a way that you can cook along with me online. I sent out the recipe a week in advance and the recipe broke down what the dish was. I wanted a dish to be something simple to prep because I didn’t want to intimidate people who are not as savvy in the kitchen. I didn’t want the ingredients to be too hard to find, but I also wanted to push that boundary of theirs to maybe use some new ingredients. There’s a nice balance between the two.
I set the Zoom link, talked about it on our newsletter and social media, and then the next thing you know, there were close to 50 people on there. I had two cameras so you could see my face and the other one on my workstation so you could see all my sauces laid out, all my spoons, and knives. And then it was like, ‘Alright everybody, let’s get started.’ I could watch and answer questions and type up my recipe in the comments. The feedback was that we all finished within 30 minutes and we were all eating.
Q: Will this happen every week?
A: My wife and I have an 11-month-old and we’re renovating our home. So, time is very precious. I think it’ll be every other week.
Q: Why did you want to want to provide this service for the community?
A: This is my 18th year in fitness and sometimes I forget where I came from. Sometimes I forget what it’s like to be that brand-new person who’s coming in and very intimidated by this world. I feel that under the fitness and health umbrella, you have mobility, mindset, goal-setting, nutrition, and cooking —that all falls underneath it for me. I wanted to create a gym that was about educating you on those pieces instead of just a gym that makes you sweaty and sore. You’re also going to get educated on the why behind it. Fitness is a skill. Cooking is a skill. People are intimidated by the kitchen, just like they’re intimidated by the gym.
The more you know about it, the less intimidated you are and that’s when you can start to play and be artistic with food. I want to teach the skillset. Growing up, I started cooking at a young age because my parents worked late. So, it was me cooking for my younger sisters. I got tired of frozen pizzas and Hamburger Helper. The cool thing is that I’m not a chef and you don’t have to be. That’s what I tell people. I just really enjoy prepping meals and food. Who doesn’t like food, right?
Q: How else have you pivoted your business during quarantine?
A: We were one of the winners of the Linq giveaway. We were one of the three top businesses that won $1,000. We said, ‘You know what, let’s take this and give it right back.’ So, what’s needed during this time, one is local business support. Two is just people who need love. Maybe someone who’s fighting on the frontlines day in and day out, or maybe there’s someone who’s been financial hit or maybe there’s just someone who’s going through a lot of mental struggles with the times of quarantine. So, what’s a way to love on and support the community?
I wanted to do a different giveaway. I just went to local shops and bought gift cards. I’m taking this money and turning it around, spreading it to my friends to put together a $650 package worth of gift cards. Here’s how you find that winner: You can’t nominate yourself. You have to nominate someone you know who you feel deserves it by sending me a 30-second video explaining why. I want to take all the videos and make a montage out of it. Even if you didn’t win, the fact that someone is thinking of you, that’s very uplifting.
Q: What’s giving you hope right now?
A: Because there is so much opportunity, and I just see this time as an opportunity to look at the positive instead of the negative. This time of quarantine has pushed our innovation five to 10 years. It’s a way for us to reconnect and hit the reset button and really dig into how we can grow from this personally, spiritually, financially. It’s just growth and opportunity that gives me hope. Yes, we’re closed down, but I’m positive about where we’re going to be on the outcome of this and the relationships that have strengthened by this.
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