Meet the Instructors



Grace C.E. Esler



Majoring in Dietetics and Mass Communications from Chicago, Illinois, Grace has always had a passion for food and cooking from dining experiences in the city. Grace writes for her self-developed blog of recipes and restaurant reviews at in hopes to become a professional food writer, editor, and registered dietitian. Grace is excited to bring her creative influences into the kitchen.





Joey Sawyer


Major: Biomedical Engineering, Global Engineering Studies minor

Philosophy on Cooking: Always challenge yourself. Never give in and buy an egg slicer when you can learn to cut with a knife.

Favorite Part of the Job: Getting the chance to enjoy cooking so many different kinds of foods, and sharing that joy with other people.





Connor Hage


Major: Mechanical Engineering

Philosophy on Cooking: When I was younger, I made my mom teach me how to bake a chocolate cake, and I’ve been cooking since then. I think cooking is great because you take all sorts of basic ingredients, often times ones that don’t taste good by themselves, and combine them to create something new and delicious.

Favorite Part of the Job: Getting to interact with others, especially during Kids Cooking Clinics, and teach them how to make new things.



Aaron Hjermstad



Major: Pharmaceutical Sciences

Philosophy on Cooking: Cooking is truly an art form, and one that you have to make all your own. Following recipes is a great way to learn some basic skills, but you should never be afraid to customize it and make your meals unique.

Favorite Part of the Job: My favorite part of the job is being able to interact with everyone that comes into our kitchen and having a good time and laughs throughout the night.




Jacob Couture


Major: Management & Finance

Philosophy on Cooking:
Cooking should be a creative outlet for everyone! Not only is it a fantastic way to connect with others using great tastes, but a new way to explore cultures, histories, and stories. Personally, cooking allows me to not only feed myself, but also explore new interests, flavors, and utilize my favorite creative outlet, while collecting new experiences with other people all over the world. Spending the past few summers eating my way through different parts of the world, I can speak from experience when I say that food transcends all languages and cultures! Ask a local where to eat, you may be surprised where it takes you…

Favorite Part of the Job:
Nothing makes me happier than sharing my passion with Purdue’s diverse and inquisitive community. Each cooking demo is a new experience, allowing me to interact with people from all different diversities, both culturally and in a culinary sense. There’s so much out there to learn and experience; being a Cooking Instructor at Purdue is a great way to find that!

Jen Brady


Major: Dietetics

Philosophy on Cooking: Measuring ingredients is not what makes a good cook; a good cook learns from experiences and improves every time they recreate and redesign a meal.

Favorite part of the job: I like being challenged with recipes that I have not cooked before. It helps me improve with new culinary skills and a sense of curiosity.



Shannon Jones

Shannon- RecWell

Major: Dietetics

Philosophy on Cooking: Cooking is something that anyone can do given the right instruction and the proper tools. It allows for creativity, brings people together, and provides nourishment and fuel for our bodies. I get excited tasting my own creations and love to cook and bake for others.

Favorite part of job – My favorite part of the job is having the opportunity to lead Kids Cooking Clinics and see the kids try new foods they thought would be “gross” but they learn is actually really tasty.



Zach Jordan


Zach Jordan is a theme park engineering student who has loved to cook his entire life, which according to his parents, “is alright.” Throughout his life he has entertained tens of people with his signature dishes, such as Easy-Mac with dried oregano, or brandless nondescript toaster pastries a la mode. He combines his passions for food and science together, deriving the physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics behind cooking. Due to a tinsel accident, his personality may be too festive for children. He also may have written this in the third person.




Molly Brennan


My philosophy on cooking is to try to incorporate fresh and seasonal ingredients into your favorite recipes.  Don’t be afraid to experiment! Cooking is a creative form of self-expression, take risks, try new ingredient and flavor combinations, attempt a new recipe, but most importantly have fun! I would have to say that my favorite part of being an instructor, whether it’s cutting a tomato, sautéing vegetables, or taking the first nibble of a new recipe, watching audience members get excited and enthusiastic about cooking establishes a connection that makes this job meaningful! My favorite recipe to make is chocolate chip marshmallow cornflake cookies. Otherwise my hobbies and other interests include swing dance, writing, and painting, baking, listening to music, and watching adorable red panda YouTube videos

Favorite quote:

“There is no such thing as failure, just unconventional paths to success!”

Olivia Birlson

SAMSUNG CSC     My name is Olivia, and I love butter. I’m a senior in dietetics and a certificate in entrepreneurship. Someday I would love to combine my love for food and nutrition into my own business by teaching people how to cook healthfully for themselves. I take great pride in creating delicious dishes for the people I love, and have received verbal proof that my cooking abilities are how I hooked my fiancee. 

     My favorite thing besides cooking is traveling, and I think that will shine through in my posts. I plan on documenting my future travels for all of our readers, and I hope one day you take the opportunity to visit these places and try these amazing dishes. Just remember, its better to look back on life and say “I can’t believe I did that” than to look back and say “I wish I did that.” 

Sam Martinez, DTR

SAMSUNG CSC       I’ve actually only been cooking since I got to college! Leaving the comfort of home and your Italian mother’s wonderful cooking puts you in a tight spot when it comes down to eating. But ever since I have had to cook for myself I have drowned my brain with different recipes, cooking techniques, and styles of food. In 2014 I was a Boilermaker Culinary Throwdown Champion, and even later that year I found myself cooking in a kitchen in New Jersey for an entire summer. Needless to say my love for food has taken me to some interesting places during my college career.

      Graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics/Nutrition, Fitness & Health in 2015 and having recently become a Dietetic Technician, Registered, I am hoping to work with athletes someday and maybe even own a farm-to-curb style food-truck.

“Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.” -Voltaire