Now that The Cooking Project is about five classes deep (see Sunday’s story here), it’s beginning to run like a well-oiled machine. But it took a chance meeting to get the cooking lessons — taught by Bay Area chefs to underprivileged, mostly homeless teens and young adults — off the ground.
Here’s a little snipped of that back story.
This has been on Daniel Patterson’s mind for awhile. In the beginning, he brought kids from Larkin Street Youth Services right into the kitchen at Coi, his 4-star restaurant in San Francisco, for quick lessons.
“It was so fun,” he said, but between his four restaurants, an upcoming book and other events, he knew that it wasn’t totally sustainable to do it all on his own.
Later that year, he ran into Sasha Bernstein — a PR vet who also helped run the SF Chefs conference for several years — at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market. She was interning with CUESA while helping to launch Foodwise Kids, a program bringing public school classes to the Thursday market to introduce them to the differences between a farmers’ market and a supermarket.
Bernstein happened to be leading a tour when she and Patterson got to chatting, and they quickly discovered that they had a shared passion — one that Bernstein could really facilitate.
“We were like, ‘let’s just do this,’” Bernstein remembers, and Patterson realized that his generalized desire could turn into an actual one. Months later, the program kicked off at the SF Cooking School — the perfect light-filled, clean and cheerful space for getting these teens and young adults excited about being in the kitchen, only a short distance from Larkin Street’s headquarters.
The recipes are also affordable. The recipes shared in Sunday’s story — like Patterson’s Cabbage Rye Pork Soup or Mourad Lahlou’s braised chicken legs — can all be made for well under $3 a serving.
For now, Patterson has all hands on deck while the classes are getting off the ground, but hopes that in the future, different chefs and teachers will help carry the load.
So far, the chef has led the lessons with the help of one co-teacher. Past classes have seen Laurence Jossel from Nopa and Nopalito, Richie Nakano from Hapa Ramen, Mourad Lahlou from Aziza, and Kim Alter from Haven. Lots of big personalities getting the students involved, prepping and telling stories. The summer schedule is pretty firmed up, with appearances expected from Elianna Friedman of CUESA (also the one who launched Foodwise Kids with Bernstein), chef and author Joanne Weir, Bill Corbett from The Absinthe Group, and Charlie Hallowell from Pizzaiolo and Boot & Shoe Service. And going forward, it sounds like many more in the chef community are eager to get on board.