This article first appeared in Kidsburgh.org, a media partner of NEXTpittsburgh that focuses on making Pittsburgh a better place to raise kids.
There are many advantages to teaching kids to cook; learning to prepare meals is just the tip of the iceberg lettuce. Every recipe tackled is a complete STEM lesson. Kids learn how to follow directions, how to take precise measurements and calculate fractions. Consider the science lessons behind rising bread, whisking egg whites into a fluffy meringue and knowing when to flip a pancake.
Cooking also is a fun hands-on activity with a satisfying finish. Preparing food can help picky eaters expand their food choices and sample the dishes they’ve prepared. These life skills carry on into adulthood, preparing kids for a healthy and enriching life.
And wouldn’t it be nice to have a little extra help in the kitchen?
Luckily for Pittsburgh kids and their grownups, there are plenty of places offering cooking classes for kids.
1. Crate Cooking School
Crate Cooking School’s three-day Kids Camps help develop a taste for travel along with cooking skills. 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 class (Aug. 10-12) heads to New York, Georgia and New Mexico.
Individual classes range from virtual to in-person, hands-on classes with an accompanying grownup. Fiesta Fun translates into dishes like chicken fajitas, mango guacamole and chocolate caramel churro sundaes. The Luau Party cooks up a meal of coconut chicken bites, pork sliders and sweet potato fries. There are also classes like Knife Skills, which teach proper techniques, safety and how to choose the right knife for the job. Find the July/August schedule here.
2. Soul Food Summer Camp with Reconstruction Pittsburgh
At the Soul Food Summer Camp, entire families will be encouraged to “embrace food as an expression of culture.” The five days of cooking classes, from July 12-16, celebrate the Black experience through hands-on culinary adventures at Frick Environmental Center or in virtual sessions. Reconstruction Pittsburgh’s Chef Toya will guide families to create soul food meals like black-eyed peas and rice, collard greens and cornbread. Each meal’s history, the science of the meal’s creation and the health benefits will be explored. Registration is $175, but scholarships are available.
A second component of the week’s activities includes a free Soul Food Celebration on July 17 at Frick Park. Kids can learn the science of cooking with Citizen Science Lab, try their hand at make-and-take gardening projects with Soil Sisters Nursery and take nature walks.
3. Istituto Mondo Italiano
It’s all about Italy at Istituto Mondo Italiano – the culture, the language and the food. Cooking classes immerse kids in the language as a fun way to develop linguistic skills along with Italian cookery. The Istituto is just wrapping up its annual summer camps. But it’s the perfect time to sign up for the Al Dente classes that begin in September. This bilingual language/cooking combo, recommended for kids ages 3-7, fills up quickly.
Current Cook Along classes cover regional dishes, such as orecchiette and tortellini as part of the Virtual Tour of Italy initiative that has been going on for a few months. The classes are geared to adults but include a kids’ component to encourage families to cook together. Soon, they’ll be saying “Buon appetito!”
4. Camp Delicious
Luminari helps teens develop skills in leadership, writing, public speaking – and cooking. The organization’s annual Camp Delicious inspires kids to learn about food, taking raw ingredients to kitchen to plate. Some of Pittsburgh’s top chefs and nutritionists guide up-and-coming cooks to prepare and appreciate food. By week’s end, the kids will have developed a palate that recognizes the beauty of herbs and spices as well.
This summer’s camp is already sold out, but video classes from Camp Delicious for a Virtual World are available for free. Dive into fish preparation from Executive Chef Edwin Smith of Monterey Fish Grotto. Learn all about herbs from educator Will Smith Jr. Or give your favorite comfort food a makeover with Chef Roger Levine. This camp has the right name: Delicious!
5. Gaynor’s School of Cooking
Classes for kids at Gaynor’s School of Cooking are all about hands-on learning for every age group. Kids can get an early start at developing kitchen skills with the Mommy (or Daddy) and Me Classes, designed for ages 2-5 and their grownup. On Family Fun Nights, kids and their parents prepare dishes like spicy turkey kabobs and baked doughnuts.
Five-day camps run throughout the summer. Kids ‘R’ Cooks, for ages 8-12, takes on breaded turkey cutlets, chocolate mousse, strawberry shrimp and mini-baked Alaska. In Teen Baking, for ages 13-18, kids learn to bake cakes and make pastry to be incorporated into pies, quiches and appetizers. Ages 6-10 will try their hand at breakfast berry pizza, tomato soup, spicy salsa and marshmallows. Watch for additional fall classes to be announced later this summer.
6. Let’s Move Pittsburgh
Let’s Move Pittsburgh and Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens pair up for a fun series of virtual cooking classes for kids. Zero Waste Cooking, for grades 7-12, explores techniques to prepare quick jams and refrigerator pickles. Younger kids, in grades 5-7, will learn how to navigate a frying pan in Breakfast Crash Course. And they’ll practice the fundamentals of slicing, dicing and julienning in the Knife Skills class. Registration is $20 per class.
7. The Mattress Factory
Teen are invited to a free food-focused class at The Mattress Factory. Food as Expression will be hosted by Simon Chough, the founder and owner of Soju Korean restaurant. He will lead kids through making tasty recipes while considering how food can be a creative expression of artistry. Register here for the class on July 27.
8. Carnegie Science Center’s BodyStage
BodyStage at Carnegie Science Center goes beyond recipes to look at the chemistry of food as it’s prepared, how it’s cooked – and what happens after you eat it. The live shows are as entertaining for grownups to watch as they are for the kids participating. Participation is key in teaching scientific concepts. In Science in a Scoop, a program about ice cream, kids go on stage and are asked to dance like molecules. As the temperature cools, those molecules dance more and more slowly to demonstrate what is happening on a molecular level. Older kids might make mozzarella cheese in a class called Say Cheese! Taste the Rainbow, aimed at preschool kids, teaches them to identify edible parts of fruit and veggies, how to clean them and classify them by color. They even prepare a nutritious snack.
The BodyStage shows are included with admission. Just browse the daily calendar to see what programs are scheduled. Want to try it at home? Follow this link to the recipes for frozen Creamy Custard and Shake The Bag Ice Cream or fire it up with Fruit Flambe.