A Recipe for Community Health
professional chef Barry Infuso. “She would wrap one of her aprons around me, pull up a chair to the counter for me to stand on, and encourage me to use my hands to get a feel for the food we were preparing as well as the taste. More than recipes, she taught me that preparing food is about serving people, your friends and your family.”
The lessons Barry learned as a child in Toronto, Canada, defined his career path. At Pima Community College in Tucson, where he teaches culinary arts, Barry is known as the “dean of cuisine.” He says he is a teacher at heart, and is grateful that he has found many ways to help people learn about healthy cooking.
While leading walks at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, as he has done for more than 20 years, Barry often finds himself in conversations with guests about his career as a chef and his commitment to healthy living. He made that connection after he received a scholarship from a local organization to attend the Canyon Ranch Life Enhancement Program.® Barry was inspired by what he learned about prevention and the integrative health approach. It’s a way of life he shares with his wife Jashio Pei, who is also a long-time Fitness walker.
When the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, whose lands are just outside of Tucson, hired Barry to engage seniors and children in learning how to cook more healthfully, he realized he had found a way to share his passion for teaching and cooking in the spirit and style he learned from his grandmother. The equipment for those first classes were little more than a sink and a microwave
Today, 10 years down the road, Barry meets participants in the Tribe’s “Cooking for the Health of It” program in the gleaming stainless steel demonstration kitchen at the Pascua Yaqui Wellness Center. The facility, which opened in 2008, also includes a basketball court, workout gyms and swimming pools. The Wellness Center is a significant example of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s commitment to helping members prevent or overcome diseases, such as diabetes, and make healthier choices.
Barry is now a familiar face at the Wellness Center where his sense of humor and practical approaches are well known. “I buy the foods we use in our classes from the local stores where the people shop, and I encourage them to make small changes in the way they cook and the way they eat rather than attempting sweeping changes that are harder to stick with.”
In response to an open call, Barry was nominated for the Canyon Ranch Institute® Prevention Pioneer Award. The distinction recognizes and honors individuals, organizations and initiatives that are advancing health literacy, improving prevention and eliminating health disparities.
CRI Executive Director and Board Member Jennifer Cabe describes Barry as “an ideal example of the positive changes that can happen when someone who is passionate about health and well-being decides to make a difference in the community. Barry is passing on his family’s customs of caring for one another, cooking real food, and being healthy. Based on more than 30 years of Canyon Ranch leadership in health and wellness, these are the traditions Canyon Ranch Institute values, and we’re proud to honor Barry as the fifth CRI Prevention Pioneer.”
For more information about Canyon Ranch Institute, please visit canyonranchinstitute.org