Thank you for being here and following along our journey! 2017 was a big year for Courageous Kitchen because we launched our social enterprise doing Thai cooking tutorials in Bangkok and San Diego. Although we have been cooking with kids for more than four years now, developing a business model and implementing it successfully was our biggest and most rewarding challenge of the past year. Well we’re not stopping there! With your help and a big boost of confidence from a successful 2017, we’re outlining 5 crazy and courageous goals we hope to strive for in 2018!
1) Specialized Cooking Classes for Young Adults and Teens
In 2017 we held our first cooking camp for pre-teens, hosting 11 children for a full three days of cooking. The activities were a blast! We had help from a visiting volunteer chef, all the way from New Zealand, and the students tried their hand at everything from Japanese food, to spicy Thai dishes, to baking. The time with the pre-teens helped us realize both how bright and capable they are, and the need to have more specialized instruction dedicated to them. So this year we will be focusing on them in more activities, both to build up their English language skills, and confidence in the kitchen. The group includes many students who overcome incredible odds every time they show up cook in the Courageous Kitchen!
The older brothers and sisters in our young adults group, on the other hand, are so skilled in the kitchen that they tend to overshadow their younger siblings. We are bringing them new challenges in the kitchen this year, with lessons that build on each other, challenge them to create entire meals, and provide more vocational opportunities so they can get real world experience doing what they love. The student’s English speaking skills have grown leaps and bounds, but they must continue to develop their abilities to read and memorize recipes, work independently, and adapt to unexpected challenges.
Keep in mind these are students who may not have imagined before that they could aspire to be more than street food vendors and construction workers. But with your support and warm invitations from local businesses, we’ve taken many of them to make their first visits to real restaurants and even commercial kitchens. These opportunities give the students something to aspire to, and help them better understand the big picture of our transformation mission in their community.
2) Build Stronger Teams to Serve Our Students and Families
Early in the life of our young organization we needed support for material items. We needed rice and cooking equipment, and food for families in need. We didn’t just have them on our wishlist, we needed those things urgently! After success in improving the conditions in the community and carving out a space where we can teach comfortably, we are turning our attention away from material needs, toward building stronger teams. This means adding paid staff to the Courageous Kitchen team who can really lay the foundation for the work that our volunteers arrive to do. Since many grants and other sources of funding do not allow us to allocate funds towards staffing needs, our ability to do this in the past has suffered. However, the income the charity generates through our cooking classes and street food tours, should help us expand our team this year. Then with stronger team cohesion we can also better keep our donors updated, by more regularly telling the stories of lives being changed with your support.
3) Offer More Unique Cooking Classes and Products
There are plenty of options for cooking classes in Bangkok. In such a competitive business, we’re always adapting our classes to make the more local, personalized, and unique. This helps attract different types of customers and makes each of the classes more interesting to teach for us. For example, while you may only be able to cook standard Thai dishes in a typical cooking class, our small class size allows us to offer more unique dishes, such as this pineapple and seafood curry. If you’re planning to cook with us in 2018, be sure to also ask about our special menus featuring harder to find hilltribe dishes and spicy food from the Thai countryside!
We’re not only increasing types of dishes we make with our guests, but the types of classes we offer too. We’re now offering an evening cooking class for families with children in Bangkok. During the class we will do interactive cooking demos with our guests, especially for the children attendance. This class was developed because feedback from guests indicated there is a shortage of family oriented activities, including less demanding cooking classes in Bangkok. While the morning class may be too intense, this new class gets everyone active rolling summer rolls, sticky rice dumplings, and other fun, edible treats. Parents and other kitchen weary visitors can also relax while we prepare the rest of dinner for you!
If you’re curious about the storm we’re cooking up with our guests in our usual morning market class, see our last post entitled, 5 Stunning Thai Dishes to Request in Our Bangkok Cooking Class!
4) Secure More Long Term Partnerships
At our last class for 2017, there was a special surprise waiting for each of the students a full week before Christmas. Disguised in black trash bags, friends from Bangkok Patana School delivered over 70 presents to give away. Instead of giving indiscriminately the gifts, which came from the Year 6 students at Bangkok Patana’s primary school, were tailored to the age and gender of our kids. For our older students, for instance, many of the gift boxes were filled not only with fun, educational items, but with much needed toiletries too. In 2018 we hope to develop more long term partnerships with other schools, religious organizations, and businesses. The long term oriented relationships give time for outsiders to better understand the work we’re doing and the needs we’re addressing for families at risk in urban Bangkok.
5) Be Kind to the Environment and Grow More of Our Own Food
Our last courageous challenge for 2018, is one we’re always working towards! We’re upping the ante this year, and began in January by offering our guests straws made with the hollow stem of the morning glory plant. The eco friendly alternative also looks great in our glasses of herbal butterfly and lemongrass teas. We have also been using more interesting plating thanks to a local company producing plates from the wood of betel nut palms.
The material is biodegradable and a natural alternative to plastic plates or styrofoams used too often to serve and store food. The plates appear occasionally in our cooking classes, but are especially convenient on our Street Food 101 Tour. The tour takes guests off the beaten path to eat street food, which is often doled out in overly generous amounts into plastic bags or styrofoam plates. The feedback from guests and even many of the vendors we visit has been overwhelmingly positive, and we hope to continue to be more environmentally conscious in our endeavors in the future too!