How We Work

The Cooking Project is a charitable foundation dedicated to giving young adults the skills to feed themselves delicious and healthy food. 
Cooking classes are always free to the local youth community.
We teach classes in partnership with various schools and youth oriented organizations throughout San Francisco and Oakland.

How do we inspire young people to want better food?
The Cooking Project offers free cooking classes for neighborhood youth. Taught by local chefs, the classes focus on teaching very basic cooking skills in a fun, casual environment. The recipes are intended to be easy to follow and replicate, using ingredients available in the immediate area. We teach basic food shopping and budgeting skills, as well as tips like stocking the pantry and cooking cycles, like how to turn a chicken into several days worth of meals. We celebrate and honor different cultural traditions through the food we make and share.

The dishes are mostly grain and vegetable-based, with meat as a side or a flavoring. They cost approximately $10 for 4 portions. And we encourage the chefs to cook the kind of delicious, easy to understand dishes that make them happy. Since food derives its emotional power from its connection to other people, the stories that chefs tell about what they’re making and why can give the dishes context and meaning.

How can we connect to the community?
We work with the resources that already exist within the community. The Tenderloin is home to community gardens, after-school programs and many other social justice initiatives. We partner with these already-existing programs to amplify efforts, rather than fragment them. We are following this model as we join the Oakland community.

What can we learn about learning?
There has been a tremendous amount of research about what makes teaching effective in schools, but very little around cooking. Food is one of the most complex activities we engage in, closely linked to what we feel and remember, so it makes sense that we would learn about food differently than we do about math or history. One of the goals of The Cooking Project is to find out what makes food knowledge stick.

We do not follow a traditional “class” format. The kids are involved as much as possible – cutting, cooking, and tasting – which seems to reinforce learning. Also having the recipes on the website, along with pictures and videos, provides a resource for remembering how to make the dishes.

Chef and Community Supporters:
Mourad Lahlou, Laurence Jossel, Richie Nakano, Jodi Liano, Bill Corbett, Kim Alter, Joanne Weir, Charlie Hallowell, Elianna Friedman, Adam Tortosa, Matthew Dolan, Sarah Henkin, Brandon Jew, Shakira Simley, Bi-Rite Market, Alexander Ong, Bruce Cole, Tara Duggan, Hollie Greene, Anna Derivi-Castellanos, Three Babes Bakeshop, Leif Hedendal, Eric Ehler, Rachelle Boucher, Lia Hillman, Pesha Perlsweig, Reem Assil, Preeti Mistry, Jessica Lioon, Sally Rogers, and growing….

Extra special thanks to:
Jodi Liano, San Francisco Cooking School
Benjamin Nelsen, Larkin Street Youth Services
Jon Adams, illustrator
Kristján Pétursson, developer