This article first appeared on Kidsburgh.org, a media partner of NEXTpittsburgh focused on making Pittsburgh a better place to raise children.
There are many benefits of teaching children to cook; Preparing meals is just the tip of the iceberg lettuce. Each recipe tackled is a complete STEM lesson. Children learn to follow instructions, take accurate measurements and calculate fractions. Consider the science behind rising bread, whipping egg whites into a fluffy meringue, and knowing when to flip a pancake.
Cooking is also a fun hands-on activity with a satisfying conclusion. Preparing food can help picky eaters expand their food choices and taste the dishes they prepare. These life skills carry on into adulthood, preparing children for healthy and rewarding lives.
And wouldn’t it be nice to have a little extra help in the kitchen?
Luckily for kids and adults in Pittsburgh, there are many places that offer cooking classes for kids.
1. Box Cooking School
The Crate Cooking School’s three-day Kids Camps help develop a taste for travel and cooking. Around the World (July 13-15) explores dishes from Jamaica, Greece and China. Road Trip USA (July 27-29) makes culinary stops in Chicago, New Orleans and California. Another Road Trip USA course (August 10-12) leads to New York, Georgia and New Mexico.
One-to-one tuition ranges from virtual to in-person, hands-on lessons with an accompanying adult. Fiesta Fun translates to dishes like chicken fajitas, mango guacamole, and chocolate caramel churro sundaes. The Luau Party is cooking up a meal of chicken bites with coconut, pork sliders, and sweet potato fries. There are also courses like Knife Skills that teach proper techniques, safety, and how to choose the right knife for the job. The schedule for July/August can be found here.
2. Soul Food Summer Camp with Rebuilding Pittsburgh
At Soul Food Summer Camp, entire families are encouraged to “embrace food as an expression of culture.” The five-day cooking classes, July 12-16, celebrate the Black experience through hands-on culinary adventures at the Frick Environmental Center or in virtual sessions. Chef Toya of Reconstruction Pittsburgh will guide families to prepare soul food meals like black-eyed peas and rice, collards and cornbread. The history of each meal, the science of preparing the meal, and the health benefits are explored. Registration costs $175, but scholarships are available.
A second component of the weekly activities includes a free Soul Food Celebration on July 17th at Frick Park. Kids can learn the science of cooking with Citizen Science Lab, try their hand at DIY garden projects with Soil Sisters Nursery, and take nature walks.
3. Istituto Mondo Italiano
The Istituto Mondo Italiano is all about Italy – the culture, the language and the food. Cooking classes immerse children in the language for a fun way to develop language skills along with Italian cuisine. The Istituto is just completing its annual summer camps. But it’s the perfect time to register for the Al Dente courses, which start in September. Recommended for ages 3 to 7, this bilingual language/cook combo fills up fast.
Current Cook Along courses cover regional dishes such as orecchiette and tortellini as part of the Virtual Tour of Italy initiative, which has been running for several months. Classes are aimed at adults, but also include a children’s component to encourage families to cook together. Soon it will be “Buon appetito!”
4. Camp Delicious
Luminari helps teens develop leadership, writing, public speaking — and cooking — skills. The organization’s annual Camp Delicious inspires kids to learn about food and bring raw ingredients from the kitchen to the plate. Some of Pittsburgh’s top chefs and nutritionists guide aspiring chefs to prepare and appreciate food. By the end of the week, children will have developed a palate that also recognizes the beauty of herbs and spices.
This summer’s camp is already sold out, but the Camp Delicious for a Virtual World video courses are available for free. Immerse yourself in Executive Chef Edwin Smith’s fish preparation at Monterey Fish Grotto. Learn all about herbs from educator Will Smith Jr. Or give your favorite dish a makeover with Chef Roger Levine. This camp has the right name: Tasty!
5. Gaynor’s Cooking School
The courses for children at Gaynor’s School of Cooking are all about hands-on learning for all ages. Kids can start developing their cooking skills early with the Mom (or Dad) and Me classes, designed for children ages 2-5 and their adults. On Family Fun Nights, kids and their parents prepare dishes like spicy turkey skewers and baked donuts.
Five-day camps are held throughout the summer. Kids ‘R’ Cooks for ages 8-12 take on breaded turkey cutlets, chocolate mousse, strawberry shrimp and baked Alaska. Teen Baking teaches kids ages 13-18 how to bake cakes and make pastries that can be incorporated into pies, quiches, and appetizers. Kids between the ages of 6 and 10 will try their hand at berry pizza, tomato soup, spicy salsa and marshmallows for breakfast. Keep an eye out for additional fall classes to be announced later this summer.
6. Let’s move to Pittsburgh
Let’s Move Pittsburgh and Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens team up for a fun series of virtual cooking classes for kids. Zero Waste Cooking for Grades 7-12 examines techniques for quickly preparing jams and fridge pickles. Younger kids in grades 5-7 learn how to use a frying pan in the breakfast crash course. And they’ll practice the basics of slicing, dicing, and julienning in the knife skills class. Registration is $20 per class.
7. The mattress factory
Teens are invited to a free food class at The Mattress Factory. Food as Expression will be moderated by Simon Chough, founder and owner of Korean restaurant Soju. He will guide children through the preparation of delicious recipes and how food can be a creative expression of craftsmanship. Register here for the course on July 27th.
8. Carnegie Science Center’s BodyStage
BodyStage at the Carnegie Science Center goes beyond recipes, examining the chemistry of food as it’s prepared, how it’s cooked—and what happens after you eat it. The live shows are just as entertaining for adults as they are for the children taking part. Participation is the key to communicating scientific concepts. In Science in a Scoop, a program about ice cream, children take to the stage and are asked to dance like molecules. As the temperature cools, these molecules dance more and more slowly to show what is happening at the molecular level. Older kids can make mozzarella cheese in a class called Say Cheese! Aimed at preschoolers, Taste the Rainbow teaches them to identify edible parts of fruits and vegetables, clean them, and classify them by color. They even prepare a nutritious snack.
The BodyStage shows are included in the entrance fee. Just browse the daily calendar to see what programs are scheduled. Do you want to try it at home? Follow this link for recipes for Frozen Creamy Custard and Shake The Bag Ice Cream, or light it up with Fruit Flambe.