Iron Chef: Cooking Adaptations

Designers: Katie Apibunyopas, Seung Yun Lee, David Song

Client Coordinator: Fay Tripp, OTR, Lenox Baker Hospital

Supervising Professors: Kevin Caves and Richard Goldberg


Our client, Joshua, is a teenage boy who was diagnosed with a primary brain tumor and experienced a stroke as a result of surgery to remove the tumor.  The stroke left Joshua both paralyzed on the left side of his body and cortically blind. Through physical therapy, he has been able to regain motor function in his left leg and shoulder but still has limited motion, strength and sensation in his left arm. He retained full control and strength in the right side of his body and is able to stand and walk independently. He has full cognitive comprehension and verbal abilities.

Joshua enjoys cooking, but as a result of his disabilities has not been able to do so without the help of his mother. For this project, we developed several custom devices that enable him to prepare his three favorite dishes with minimal assistance: spaghetti and meatsauce; steak with mashed potatoes and a vegetable; and chicken quesadilla. These dishes require many different cooking tasks that are difficult for Joshua to accomplish with standard cooking utensils.


While Joshua still required some supervision and assistance after initially receiving the devices, hismother was confident that with practice he would become more independent.  Additionally, she reported: “Making it safe is very important and they were able to do that. He is not going to burn himself. And the cutting board, wow, that is a device. They did an amazing job with the cutting board, making sure that it is very safe.”  Joshua told the team: “I love it and it’s going to definitely help with my independence in the kitchen. Soon enough I will be making everyone dinner … I’ll open my own four star restaurant!”


The team created three devices to assist Joshua with cooking tasks:  a modified George Foreman grill, custom modified spatula/tongs, and a custom cutting board.

A. Modified George Foreman Grill

In order to grill steak, chicken and vegetables, we selected the G4 George Foreman grill (GRP94WR), which consists of two grilling surfaces, in which the top plate folds down onto the food to be cooked. The grill comes with removable plates for easy cleaning, a large cooking surface area, and a temperature knob that allows the grill to be turned off even when plugged in. We added rubber tactile cues around the temperature knob to help him set the grill to the appropriate temperature.  To use,the client puts the food on the grill, closes the lid and waitsfor it to cook. This eliminates the need for Joshua to flip the piece of food and, for safety reasons, limits the amount of exposed heated surface while it cooks. To provide additional safety, we added a shield made of heat resistant polyetherimide plastic.  We milled a handle into the shield, and attached it to the top part of the grill with two hinges. When the grill is opened, the shield extends over the grilling surface to prevent his hand from coming in contact with the hot grill plate. In the closed position, the shield extends forward and prevents Joshua from accidentally reaching into the grill or into the hot grease that drips out. When the unit is closed, the exposed upper surface also gets hot, so we provided a heat-resistant cover, made of potholder material. This cover is attached with Velcro.

B. Custom Spatula

We attached two oversized, pancake spatulas to a set of barbeque tongs (Figure 1). With the larger surface area of the spatulas and their ability to clampthe food in place, he will be able to easily move food on and off the grill without having to balance it. We machinedgrooves into the spatula heads that match the grooves of the George Foreman grill. The front edge of the top spatula was bent to make a rake-like shape to help scrape food off of the grill. The larger spatula face, which provides roughly 9 square inches of surface area, accommodates larger pieces of food such as a quesadilla.

C: Cutting Board

We created a modified cutting board that can be operated with one hand.  The cutting board has a sliding food holder that slides in small increments towards an attached knife (Figure 1). This allows Joshua to slide food infixedincrementsand then locate the stainless steel knife to slice the food. The cut pieces slide directly into a removable container on the other side of the knife so that Joshua can collect and carry them elsewhere in the kitchen.

The knife is held in place with a removable pinto allow for washing of the knife. The pin slides in a slot over a distance of 2” and rotates about the point of the pin to allow for a slicing motion. The knife rests on a 4” block on the edge of the cutting board to allow for food to be slid under the knife into position without exposing too much of the knife blade.

The total cost of the three devices was $375.

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