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Chef’s love for St. Jude’s feeds our souls

As we stay home for Nevada, we are renewing interest in old hobbies, taking up new ones and devoting time to things we never seemed to have enough time for before. We are exercising. We are cleaning. We are doing home-improvement projects. And we are cooking.

We also are learning to connect with each other in new ways, sending cards and letters and video chatting.

No matter what challenges life throws at us each day, we continue to care about how our family, friends and neighbors are faring.

The folks at St. Jude’s Ranch for Children found a way to combine these multiple interests, stay connected with its patrons and feed our souls — literally. Each Saturday at noon, its resident chef, Vic “Vegas” Moea, is hosting live cooking classes on the nonprofit’s Facebook page.

Moea, owner of Sinful Subs in Las Vegas and corporate executive chef for Nicholas and Company food distributor, said the cooking lessons allow him to share the power of food in an easy, relatable manner.

It also gives participants a distraction from what is going on in the world around them, he said.

“… the one thing we all have in common and that is food,” he said. “It’s a way to take care of people. We are virtually breaking bread together.”

His fast-talking, over-the-top personality makes learning new culinary skills fun as the time flies by. And the Facebook live platform allows for interaction with those viewing. It’s the next best thing to attending a class in person.

Christina Vela, St. Jude’s executive director, said the cooking classes go hand in hand with their motto of hope and healing.

The first class was offered April 4. Moea created a frittata, using ingredients that could easily be found around the house — such as eggs, instant macaroni and cheese cups, shredded cheese and frozen vegetables — and offered a semi-gourmet dish that could feed four for about $5.

“This is the greatest thing I have done in the past three weeks,” he said. “It was so much fun.”

The following week, he made a baked ziti dish, posting the ingredients on St. Jude’s Facebook page in advance so those watching could cook along with him, if they wanted to.

“I want people in these tough times to be able to produce a top-notch meal,” he said.

In conjunction with the April 11 class, St. Jude’s held a raffle, with Moea delivering the final dish to the winner.

The classes will continue through at least the end of the month.

Once the live segment has finished, the video is posted to St. Jude’s Facebook page so people can watch when it is convenient for them.

Moea said he hopes to continue some type of monthly cooking event once the stay-at-home directive is lifted. Then, he would like to create a cookbook showcasing the recipes he has featured that can be sold to help raise funds for St. Jude’s.

He said he may consider creating dishes based on requests and hopes to incorporate some type of contests where a “star child” or patrons of St. Jude’s will have the opportunity to cook along with him.

His love of St. Jude’s and its mission to help children is evident, flowing out as freely and quickly as his words.

He has been involved with St. Jude’s for most of his life. When he was a child in the 1980s and ’90s, his father, a professional barber, would cut hair for the children living at the ranch and he would tag along.

“They stole my heart from the time my dad went there to cut hair for the kids,” he said.

As he grew older, he vowed to continue supporting St. Jude’s work.

“When it was time to give back, St. Jude’s was first on my list.”

It doesn’t hurt that his middle name is Jude. He said he was named after his Italian family’s favorite saint, who they prayed to when he was born and there were complications.

Food is part of his heritage and his vocation. It’s who he is and what he does. Fortunately for members of the St. Jude’s family, he is happy to share.

Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.

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