About the Chef

My love language

I’m Debra Erickson, executive chef and founder of The Blind Kitchen. Food is my love language—it’s the way I most enjoy expressing my fondness and affection for family and friends. When vision loss threatened my ability to safely prepare meals for my loved ones, I was deeply saddened. I didn’t know how I could continue using sharp knives, hot ovens, or stovetops independently, nor could I continue using food preparation strategies that depend on sight. How could I independently read recipes, shop for groceries, and keep a clean, organized kitchen if I couldn’t see?

Debra Erickson, Executive Chef and founder of The Blind Kitchen
Debra Erickson, executive chef and founder of The Blind Kitchen

Learning to live with vision loss

When my declining vision began to impair my day-to-day functioning, I enrolled in vocational rehabilitation classes to support my new way of life. I learned many new skills including how to use a white cane, how to operate a computer without a monitor nor a mouse, and how to use a smartphone with a totally black screen. With the help of my instructor, now my dear friend, I also learned how to prepare meals while completely blindfolded, and I was amazed at the solutions that were available to me.

Debra Erickson wearing her salt-shaker earrings
Debra Erickson wearing her salt-shaker earrings

Learning to cook again

One day while in a meal preparation class, a light bulb went on: I could teach adults like myself to cook safely and independently! I realized I wanted to learn the art and science of the culinary world. Despite being functionally blind, I enrolled at McClaskey Culinary Institute at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington. As I progressed through the program, I loved elevating my cooking ability and focused on achieving consistent results every time.

I was held to the same standards as the other students, and I found ways to excel and succeed despite my vision impairment. (Read an article from The Columbian newspaper about my experience at Clark College.) I found tremendous joy in the creative process required to cook in the kitchen without vision. I learned tools and techniques that made me competitive with the other students. I knew I had found the right profession, and I am grateful to the instructor chefs who offered their patience and support as I achieved my educational goals.

From Cooking Instructor to The Blind Kitchen

Four days after graduation, I was invited to become an instructor of meal preparation at my alma mater, the Oregon Commission for the Blind. With my culinary degree and previous teaching experience, I loved teaching adults how to cook.

However, in March 2020, COVID-19 changed the way many agencies operated. Our students’ safety was the highest concern, therefore, in-person cooking classes were indefinitely suspended. That suspension ended up lasting a shocking 18 months!

During this time, I was inspired to find new ways to teach blind and vision-impaired people how to cook. I call this mission The Blind Kitchen and dedicated myself to offering tools and techniques that make cooking at home safe and enjoyable for blind and vision-impaired home cooks.

In early 2024 I resigned from being a Vocational Rehabilitation Instructor at the Oregon Commission for the Blind to focus all of my attention on The Blind Kitchen and helping blind and vision-impaired cooks from across the country.

The Blind Kitchen’s mission

Debra Erickson, founder of The Blind Kitchen

Regardless of their position on the vision spectrum, each student had unique challenges that inspired me to develop new individual solutions. I took this new information back to The Blind Kitchen to help other people who face similar challenges. Every blind or vision-impaired person should have the opportunity to learn to cook with confidence and have consistently delicious results without the messiness that may have driven them from their own kitchens.

My dearest hope is to help those whom I fondly call “returning cooks” learn new approaches for operating in their kitchens safely, efficiently, and confidently. I feel that if vision-impaired home cooks are provided with the right tools and information, they will have the same experience I did: pure joy at being able to provide family and friends with delicious and nutritious meals to nourish their bodies and their hearts.

Today, The Blind Kitchen offers cooking tips and videos as well as recipes adapted for cooks who are blind and vision-impaired.

I sincerely hope The Blind Kitchen will bring “returning cooks” joy and confidence as they return to their kitchens to express their “food love language” to loved ones.

Learn More

Read the American Foundation for the Blind interview with Chef Debra at Employment Journeys: Debra Erickson, Chef and Owner of the Blind Kitchen.

Next steps

The Blind Kitchen offers adaptive tools, helpful strategies, and specialized knowledge to blind and vision-impaired people who want to cook safely, confidently, and independently. Our collections of kitchen tools are available online as are our short instructional videos. Shipping is always free! Everyone has a place at the table in The Blind Kitchen.