By Deanna Dames, Portland Farmers Market Volunteer
A great way to get kids excited about eating healthy and trying new foods is by letting them help choose ingredients for family meals and encouraging them to lend a hand in preparing meals at home. Even picky eaters are more likely to try something new if they’ve helped select the food and worked hard at cooking it.
Building confidence around food preparation encourages healthier eating habits, wards off food phobias, boosts self-esteem and independence, and learning to cook also encompasses other valuable skills. Following a recipe and cooking a meal involves literacy and maths skills, even practice at telling the time. Preparing meals with unfamiliar ingredients and trying delicacies from around the world gives kids exposure to other cultures and an understanding of where the food they are eating originates from.
So it is no surprise that in a “foodie” city like Portland where we have year-round access to a bounty of organic, farm-fresh ingredients, kids all around town are learning how to dice, slice, flambé and Brule at cooking classes designed just for them. If your budding chef is eager to explore new cuisines and step-up their culinary skills, these venues offer a wide range of programs for kids from elementary school through high school. Score some major parent points when your little Giada or Gordon gets the skills they need so that you can turn over dinner time to them.
Each spring the city’s farmers’ markets come to life, creating a food lover’s paradise, loaded with seasonal produce and small-batch, locally crafted eats. At Kids Cook at the Market classes, your 7 to 11 year old can get a true Farm to Table experience where they’ll cultivate culinary skills and experience a cornucopia of farm-fresh foods, learning about food seasonality, meet local farmers and prepare ingredients purchased fresh at the market. Classes are $10 and held during monthly June-September at 10am and Noon on Sundays at the King Farmers Market.
Portland Farmers Market – King
NE 7th & NE Wygant
If you’re looking for a true “farm to table” experience for your kids, Zenger Farm Camp offers the unique opportunity for kids to explore, eat, and play at their urban farm. They offer a variety of camps during the summer, winter, and spring break. Kids not only learn about cooking but they also learn what it takes to grow food.
11741 SE Foster Road
Non-profit Feed the Mass’ mission is to bring affordable cooking education to Portland communities as a way to lessen the impact that is being created by the rapidly disappearing Home Education classes in our local schools. Feed the Mass’ Little Chefs program offers kid-friendly classes emphasizing nutrition and cooking skills as a core tool to keep a community healthy, educated and happy. Little Chefs classes are $10 for kids 4-12 and they must be accompanied by an adult.
Portland Art Institute Culinary Building
34 NW 8th Avenue, 3rd Floor
If your kid is serious about learning to cook (or serious about having fun and eating), Portland’s Culinary Workshop is the place for them. Kids learn the basics of cooking, knife skills and getting comfortable with gadgets and equipment around the kitchen, along with how to make dumplings, bake a pie, make pasta from scratch, cook Thai food, discover great menus for vegetarian and vegan meals and use ingredients from around the world. Classes for kids 8-12 last 2 hours and cost $45. Additionally, a number of the adult classes have reserved kid slots at a reduced price.
807 N Russell St.
At Sur La Table, you can find an wide array of classes to cook together with your kids year round or drop them off during summer and winter breaks for 2-day or weeklong culinary camps for kids (8-12) and teens (13-17). At the cooking camps budding chefs learn to make dishes with regional flavors from Mexico, Italy, Asia and America without ever asking “are we there yet?”. During the holidays kids can enroll in seasonal classes like “Spooktacular Halloween Treat” and “Sweet Holiday Gifts” where they learn to make chocolate peppermint bark, homemade marshmallows and cinnamon-coated graham crackers. Costs for workshops and camps vary, but single classes start at about $50 for a two-hour session.
Portland Brewery Blocks
1102 NW Couch St.
90 North State Street, Suite 120
The Merry Kitchen offers a broad selection of classes for at children from as young as three right on up to teens. Classes are seasonal – fall brings baking with apples and a full Thanksgiving dinner family class, and December brings gingerbread house making and edible gift making. Families can expect lots of fun themed classes designed to engage even the most hesitant chefs. The Star Wars and Harry Potter classes are sure to be a hit and might even turn your culinary skeptic into a fan of cooking. You can also choose from after-school classes, camp and birthday options. Classes are $35 and usually run 2 hours, except for younger kids and summer camps. Advanced registration is encouraged as classes fill up quickly.
5202 NE 72nd Ave.
You’ll feel good about the food you make at Nourish Northwest, with cooking classes taught by Registered Dieticians. Classes use seasonal and local ingredients (yay veggies!) and are whole food-based so that the whole family can get learn to make hearty, nourishing meals together, like chicken cacciatore and roasted root vegetables. Single classes are typically $30 per child and $60 per adult; they also offer a four-class “Cooking Around the World” series. Ages 7-12 are recommended and dietary restrictions can be accommodated with advance notice.
4418 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
This Lake Oswego oasis offers cooking classes for kids as young as four up through adults. Sample classes include a Lincoln log gingerbread house or peppermint marshmallows. Kids can also sign up for multi-day workshops, like the three-session edible gifts, kid classics and comfort foods. Single session classes start at $48. Nic & Figs also offers sewing and craft classes – sign up early as they often sell out.
425 2nd Street (Lake Oswego)
Kids Central Kitchen has an awesome array of baking parties (like cupcake wars or pizza making), and a small selection of baking classes. You can also sign up for seasonal one-off classes, like hot cocoa cake. Single classes start at $38 and are best for ages 6-12, with advance registration required.
7327 Barnes Road, #501
At this SW Portland shop near Tigard, Decorette Shop is all about baking and decorating beautiful and bountiful sweets, so it’s no surprise that their classes are the same. Popular kids’ classes include volcano cake, Halloween candy making, cookie decorating and cupcake decorating. Single classes start at $25 and last about an hour and a half. Don’t be surprised if you can’t resist buying something in their store that has one of the largest selections of cake-baking and candy-making accessories and ingredients in the Northwest.
11945 SW Pacific Hwy (Tigard)
A side note, many of the spots listed below offer opportunities for private cooking sessions, corporate events and private cooking parties for family and friends.
Know of other kid’s cooking classes for budding chefs in and around Portland? Share them with us!