5 Organizations in the Bay Area Teaching Children Cooking Skills – KQED | Directory Mayhem

A standout program that Sprouts offers is the six-month Chef-in-Training (CIT) program. CIT is a paid apprenticeship that gives young adults “who haven’t had it easy” the skills they need to land a long-term job in the food industry. During the program, they work alongside a cooking mentor and receive application coaching so they are ready for their next step.

For younger home cooks, attend Sprouts spring and summer camps. Kids ages 7-12 spend the week learning knife and safety rules while cooking with expert guest chefs using locally sourced ingredients. Previous camps have included cooking at The Funky Elephant for a day, trips to the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market and running the Gibson Restaurant for a week.

Cook! programs

2940 Seventh Street
Berkeley, CA 94710

Students at Cook!  Program a pose for a group photo during a class.
Students at Cook! Program a pose for a group photo during a class. (Tracy Cates)

“Cooking is such a perfect medium for kids to gain confidence in their own abilities and to derive success from something they’ve put their energy into,” says Tracy Cates, founder of Cook! programs. Cook! offers summer camps and classes for children aged 9-18, with the opportunity to continue an internship for older students.

Classes are held at Rocket Restaurant Resource, a supply store with two large commercial kitchens where the kids don’t have to worry about whether or not they have a spatula. “We’re in a commercial environment with all the equipment they could need,” says Cates. “So you have the opportunity to experience a very wide range of cooking techniques.”

Classes range from dinner and desserts to pasta and Asian fare, and are taught by professional chefs from across the bay—like Executive Chef Paige Reinis and Executive Chef Francisco Machado.

If you’re looking for something more challenging, older children aged 13-18 can take the Chef in Training course, which is two weeks and two days of intensive study. Trainee chefs learn proper knife skills and cooking rules, and are encouraged to experiment with what they learn.

The cooking project

San Francisco Bay Area, CA
(Locations vary by partner)

Students from the University of San Francisco's Guardian Scholars Program and members of The Cooking Project prepare a broccoli pasta dish.
Students from the University of San Francisco’s Guardian Scholars Program and members of The Cooking Project prepare a broccoli pasta dish. (Sophia Igel)

By partnering with various communities and schools across the Bay, The Cooking Project, founded by Daniel Patterson and Sasha Bernstein, takes a slightly different approach to teaching children culinary basics.

“We take a three-pronged approach to our cooking classes,” says Bernstein. The first part is technical and covers basic techniques such as knife skills, health and safety rules and proper use of heat sources. The other pillars are “practical” and “conceptual”.

“The practical side is things like shopping and budgeting, recycling leftovers, seasonality and sustainability,” Bernstein continues. For the conceptual part, The Cooking Project works with a sociologist to develop themes related to society and food. Previous themes have included ‘Food as Medicine’, ‘Food and Community’ and ‘Race and Ethnicity Around Food’.

Some current partners of The Cooking Project include the Guardian Scholars Program, San Francisco State University, Oakland Asian Community Center and JCYC. Classes are generally aimed at students between the ages of 15 and 25 and take place parallel to the school semesters in the region.

Past courses have ranged from “Eggs Five Different Ways” to Bibingka and Calamansi Juice, and have been taught by chefs such as Ervin Lopez and Mira D’Souza. Courses are made available to students free of charge and can be found throughout the year in their respective schools or community centres.

kitchen on fire

6506 San Pablo Ave
Oakland, CA 94608

Students pose during a cooking class with Kitchen on Fire.
Students pose during a cooking class with Kitchen on Fire. (kitchen on fire)

For the past six years, Lisa Miller, co-owner of Kitchen on Fire, has been helping teens learn to cook.

“I think it’s a life skill that they’re going to be really glad their parents were looking for them at that age,” says Miller.

Currently, Kitchen on Fire hosts four summer camps per year and one spring break camp where students can come and learn to cook with chefs like co-owner Olivier Said – aka “Chef Olive.” Previous dishes have included vegetarian paella, freshly made pizza and gallo pinto.

“Be a part of it [food] being in the kitchen and preparing it and being able to make a decision about what goes in or understanding how it all comes together and appreciating the food actually goes a long way towards simply eating healthier,” Miller continues.

While teen camps currently only happen a few times a year, Kitchen on Fire hopes to offer more classes throughout the year — including a soon-to-be-announced offering for young college students ages 17-20.

Culinary Artists

Ghirardelli Square
900 North Point St, Suite H-108 B
San Francisco, CA 94109

Children will learn how to make their own pot stickers.
Children will learn how to make their own pot stickers. (Culinary Artists)

Offer courses for the youngest chefs in this guide, Culinary Artistas on the famous Ghirardelli Square offers classes for children aged 4 to 9 – and they go even younger if parents want to take the class too.

The program was founded by Vanessa Silva, formerly of La Happy Belly, another cooking and education center for young learners. Silva works with “Sous Chef Peter” and “Sous Chef Janine” to “develop creative minds and healthy bodies”.

Part day camps, part exploratory cooking experiences, summer camps at Culinary Artistas break up cooking activities with excursions and outdoor activities. Their Wrap and Roll Camp, for example, gave kids a chance to explore areas like Fort Mason and the Municipal Pier before returning to make their own dumplings for an afternoon snack.

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