Chef combines cooking and social work in new online course

May 21, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Brian Lockhart

They are two rather diverse careers, however Pam Fanjoy, owner and executive chef at Fan/Joy Restaurant and Bar in Hillsburgh, combines her culinary expertise with her career as a clinical social worker to foster healthy relationships during a rather difficult time.

With her restaurant currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Fanjoy is turning to online resources to help others cope with isolation through her Fan/Joy Chef Life Skills Family Program.

This is an eight-week, hands-on and interactive online therapeutic one-hour family cooking class for up to 10 families with children aged seven to 12. Additional classes will be held for 12- to 17-year-olds.

Parents and youth will learn to cook by preparing a healthy, delicious lunch together while also learning life skills.

The program teaches the ‘three C’s’ which include coping strategies, collaboration, and communication.

Parents will be provided with weekly recipes and a shopping list of simple, easy-to-access and affordable ingredients for that week’s recipe.

A weekly parent support group run by Ms. Fanjoy will provide parents with immediate emotional support that they are needing to cope with being at home full-time with their children while also juggling work and home schooling.

“Food is necessary for our physical health,” Ms. Fanjoy said. “But it also has huge implications for our mental health, sense of overall well-being, and it shouldn’t be taken for granted. Our mental health is directly connected to our physical health. Food is a common denominator for all of us – we all need to eat. Now with social isolation, we have a great opportunity to come back together around the dining room table for family meal times. This feeds our connection with one another, which also improves our mental health.”

Ms. Fanjoy, who is a Chopped Canada Champion, added Chef to her list of credentials after returning to school to expand on her interest in the culinary arts.

“I’ve been a social worker for 20 years, and then I went back to school for interests sake to learn a new skill,” Ms. Fanjoy explained. “I didn’t know how to cook so I decided to go to culinary school and it took on a whole life of its own. During the course of my studies I ended up creating my own business and was doing private cooking for a lot of the professional colleagues I worked with. Word got out and by the time I graduated my culinary program I had this side business that was blossoming. I’ve been a full time chef now for five years.”

She combined her knowledge of the culinary arts with skills as a social worker.

“I started working therapeutically with kids and bringing them into my commercial kitchen,” she explained. “I started it with PD day classes and recognized very quickly the power therapeutically, of working with people using food as a alternative way of treatment. I built a program around teaching kids and now families how to cook together while learning the life skills of collaboration, cooperation and problem solving. I take the technique or a strategy that I’ve taught them in the kitchen with food, and use that as a window to start conversations that families may not otherwise think to have.”

As a social worker, Ms. Fanjoy said there are several ways you can achieve some harmony with food during the COVID-19 pandemic.

They include eating meals together, creating new family food rituals like a fun-themed dinner, and including children n preparing and cooking meals.

She also suggests using meal time to talk and learn more about your child’s and expand on that through conversation.

“I closed my restaurant on March 16, and I have focused on my ‘Gourmet to Go’, in terms of the food business to continue bringing in revenue, but the Junior Chef programs has been expanding rapidly and as a social worker I really want to use this time to use the best of my skills to help people who are struggling with the situation with COVID-19. We’re already seeing significant mental health struggles with both parents and children.”

You can find out more about the Junior Chef program by visiting online at


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