Summertime. Some parents love the unstructured time off while other parents can't wait for school to start again. This summer, we looked for a happy medium. My daughter has loved cooking for quite some time now and we thought it would be well worth it to enroll her in some classes. So where do you go to have your kids learn how to cook? Thankfully we Paulding & Company's COOK! Culinary Programs for kids in the San Francisco Bay Area. They were kind enough to let us experience their program for a week, and it was a highlight of my daughter's summer.
The classes themselves take place in Emeryville California. Celebrities such as Clint Eastwood and Matt Damon have visited this kitchen. Not to mention Top Chef San Francisco was filmed there. The outside of the building looks like a normal office building, but once you enter their actual space, a large commercial kitchen opens up before you. You can also rent out the kitchen for cooking events and parties such as birthdays and rehearsal dinners.
The week we attended Cook! the focus was on learning how to make a DIY complete meal from start to finish each day. However, there are a variety of different types of classes. You can learn to make pastries, chocolates, sushi, bento, cupcakes, pizza, and much more
Each class holds up to 15 kids but you also have the program head, the chefs, and the interns. The students ranged in age from 9 years old to 15 years old. This week there was
also a high school leadership class. Needless to say the kitchen was full, but safety was a number one concern for the program heads. They reviewed all of the rules before any cooking could take place.
I was also impressed that from the very beginning, the chefs challenge the students to read their own recipes, get their own ingredients, figure out problems, and even cook their own meals on the stove. The adults took food in and out of the oven but everything else was on the students to do (with adult supervision of course). This was a little unnerving for me at first, but I soon enjoyed the freedom they gave to the students.
The menu for the week varied but some of the highlights included roast chicken (my favorite), strawberry shortcake (my daughter's favorite), sweet and savory galettes, scones, salad with homemade dressing, chocolate mousse, and more. Every meal was made entirely from scratch. There were no shortcuts allowed here. Each class also ended with lunch that consisted of all the food that was made that day.
There was one part of the program that I particularly enjoyed each day. That was cleanup time. All of the kids were expected to help clear dishes, wash them, and put them away. Never again could any of the students claim they didn't know how to clean up a kitchen. The cost of the class is well worth this lesson alone.
The week culminated in a lunch where all the families were invited to come see a presentation and learn about what the students did during the week. All the kids were encouraged to share about their favorite moments. My daughter said hers was, "learning how to mince garlic." Kind of weird but we will go with that. All the families were also treated to a lunch sampling of many dishes that showcased the student's talents. I don't think anyone left hungry.
Overall, I love how applicable this class was. Unlike many summer camp opportunities for kids, this taught practical life skills that the kids can use for their entire lives. It also helped incubate my daughter's budding interest in cooking. She even made some treats for us at home this past weekend. There were only two drawbacks to this class. The first is that it costs $540, but there are scholarships available. When you consider that the class provides life skills, food, and lasts for 4 1/2 hours a day, it seems to be a pretty good deal. The second is getting to the class. Like everywhere in the bay area, traffic can be a problem. The real question is would I send my daughter back? Absolutely, I would!
You can find out more and sign up for their last class of the summer on Cook! Culinary Program's website HERE. Also visit their Facebook and Instagram to see more pictures.
Disclosure: This class was provided to me by COOK! for the purpose of this review. I have received no compensation and the opinions expressed are solely my own.