Regina Mitchell, New Leadership Alum of 2017, moves through each phase of her life with grace and tenacity taking obstacles and transforming them into fruitful opportunities. “When I first applied for NEWL, I had no idea what the program entailed or what I would get out of it, but I knew I was open to a new experience and willing to challenge myself,” she stated in her 2020 Viva Las Visionaries podcast episode titled, “Discovering Your Voice.” After attending New Leadership in 2017, Regina has served as a Faculty-in-Residence for subsequent NEW Leadership programs, working side by side with staff to support a new cohort of students each year.
Regina graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Neuroscience in 2018 and is an active board member for the National Federation of the Blind. Prior to the pandemic, Regina began teaching at the Blind Connect, a nonprofit organization that assists in connecting blind people with other blind individuals, resources, and community. During our phone interview, Regina shared how the pandemic lockdown made her wonder how she could continue the program. “How can I bring cooking to zoom classes?”she asked herself before asserting, “I’m just going to go for it!” She has recently been featured in numerous magazines and newspapers such as the Las Vegas Sun, Las Vegas Review-Journal, LA Times, DIVERSEability Magazine, and the Food & Beverage Magazine for her amazing work teaching blind and low-vision students how to cook. These articles highlight the ways in which Regina has taken tragedy and converted it into a positive force to empower herself and others.
Regina has an extensive background in the Culinary Arts. She graduated from the Seattle Culinary Institute where she was classically trained as a chef. After many travels, she took the opportunity to work for the MGM Grand in 2011 which brought her to Las Vegas. Shortly after, Regina began to lose her vision due to a rare disease called bilateral panuveitis. The shocking realization that she would no longer be able to see did not prevent Regina from excelling forward and helping others in the process.
During her cooking classes, Regina teaches her students a wide range of skills. She walks them through the basics of using kitchen tools, cleaning, and various cooking methods. “A pizza cutter can be used as a knife and not a lot of people know that,” Regina said in our phone interview. Regina uses descriptive language that draws on the four senses of sound, touch, taste, and smell to guide her students through the kitchen. She calls this, ‘Intuitive Cooking.’ “I want them to hear me. A question I always get asked is, ‘How do you know when the meat is done?’ With a blind person, you must learn intuitively with your ears,” she acknowledges. Regina sends out the recipes ahead of time so her students can get the ingredients to prepare. As she is cooking, they are also cooking with her. She is enabling the next generation to remove fear as an obstacle to cooking.
The work that Regina is doing in the community is admirable. She recognizes the importance of teaching cooking skills to those who are low-vision and blind. “When you grow up blind you become more afraid of the kitchen due to lack of kitchen knowledge. As you mature, it becomes absolute. You just don’t do it” she laments. In addition to teaching people without vision how to cook, she is also writing a literary art cookbook. She wants recipes to be more descriptive and conversational. Her book will include over 20 recipes with photos and descriptions. We congratulate Regina Mitchell for all the amazing work she has done and continues to do!
written by Brenda Cruz Gomez, NEWL Alum & WRIN Intern