Maine cookbook author Colin McCullough is used to teaching cooking classes, often without a stovetop, an oven or even running water. His typical venue: a library. But this summer his classroom has improved significantly. McCullough is teaching a series of plant-based classes at the Peter Alfond Prevention & Healthy Living Center at MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta.

The facility, which has a state-of-the-art classroom kitchen, is “everything I could possibly ask for,” said McCullough, author of the 2019 “The Healthy Vegan Cookbook.”

MaineGeneral Medical Center is known for aligning both patient and visitor menus with evidence-based nutrition science, which backs eating patterns that are high in whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruits and low in added sugars and processed animal meats. The hospital has served vegan and vegetarian food for years. MaineGeneral is also a participant in Health Care Without Harm’s national Healthy Food in Health Care initiative, which supplies locally-grown, vegan food to hospitals. Cooking classes offered by the center have often included vegan and vegetarian recipes, but McCullough’s classes are the first completely plant-based offerings.

McCullough’s first class took place on May 16, but you can find the recipes he taught — Cuban black bean burgers, Italian veggie sausages and eggless mayo — in “The Healthy Vegan Cookbook.” His upcoming classes focus on Thai food (June 20) and hearty summer salads (July 5). Later in the season, he’ll teach a short series on Meatless Mondays and another on vegan air fryer cooking.

“Meatless Mondays is meant to be more of grab bag of seasonal produce and recipes I’ve tried that I really like that aren’t too complicated,” McCullough told me. “This program is really meant to help people learn how to cook. The recipes won’t be overcomplicated and will not use ingredients people have never heard of.”

The classes are limited to eight students and start at 5:30 p.m. By 7 p.m. the group sits down to eat the meal they just prepared. The classes end at 7:30 p.m.


McCullough, who grew up in Hollis and now lives in Farmingdale, adopted a vegan diet in 1995. He lived away from Maine for many years, but before moving back from Massachusetts in 2020, he began teaching cooking classes at libraries there, inspired by a Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise he’d gone on.

In Maine, he discovered that local libraries often have limited budgets for community education so he was excited to learn about the community cooking classes offered in the teaching kitchen at the Peter Alfond Prevention & Healthy Living Center; he reached out to chef instructor Benjamin Ramsdell.

“I jumped at the opportunity to have someone who lives that lifestyle be able to teach it,” Ramsdell said. “We have had a number of people ask about vegetarian and vegan classes. I’m not a vegan and so I was hesitant to teach them myself.”

In addition to a range of cooking classes, the center offers classes on chronic disease management, physical movement programs (such as yoga, kettle bell and Nordic walking) and mind-body (such as guided imagery and expressive art). Many of the participants are referred by their doctors, but community members may also sign up. The price of the cooking classes vary. McCullough’s classes cost $20 each.

McCullough credits his two children, who are now in their 20s, with teaching him how to create fast, affordable and tasty plant-based meals.

“There were definitely times when we didn’t have a lot of money to go to the supermarket and get whatever we want,” McCullough said. “I’d have to go down to the pantry, and there’s a can of beans and some quinoa. I have all these random ingredients and my kids are sitting there hungry and looking for me to make something that tastes really good. Also, that long ago there weren’t a lot of vegan options for convenience foods.”

Now, he shares his simple techniques and recipes with others.

“All the best intentions to eat healthy are going to seem like a drag if you have to spend hours in the kitchen,” McCullough said. “One of the things I love so much about teaching in person is to make these recipes in front of people. I love seeing people’s reactions and seeing people’s faces light up when they try the food.”

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in downtown Portland. She can be reached at

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