Courageous Kitchen typically provides weekly English and cooking class to students from marginalized communities. This is important work and partially funded by our efforts to host cooking classes and street food tours for tourists visiting Bangkok. However, a few times a year we invite the youth we serve to take part in a multi day cooking camp. We recently hosted the first camp for this year and invite you to watch the following slideshow from the event:
During the camp we have more time to review and drill the English vocabulary the students are usually learning in Saturday classes. Since the kids are usually cooking every meal, they have extra time to develop in the kitchen as well. During the camps we invite teachers from outside the charity to help us expand what we can offer students including specialized cooking, art, drama, and music activities.
We believe all of the classes work well in tandem with our English teaching curricula, by giving the students plenty of opportunity to practice their English in the kitchen, and during other fun activities. The biggest challenge is that the students all come from a variety of backgrounds. Some have participated in our classes since they were very young, with our pre-school teaching being their first organized classroom experience. Others may still be new to our classes, and have only rudimentary knowledge of English. Each camp is special because with more time to spend with the students, we can more easily identify where a student may be excelling, or needing more encouragement and assistance.
If you’ve visited us before, you know our specialty is teaching and cooking Thai cuisine. However, in the slideshow from the most recent camp we were able to offer a variety of dishes, thanks to our volunteer chefs, teaching the kids to make Vietnamese cuisine, and western dishes such as hamburgers and pizza. Since the majority of our students don’t usually have an opportunity to eat in restaurants, they cherish the chance to try new dishes and learn about how people in different cultures eat in other parts of the world.
We are so grateful to everyone involved, especially visiting teachers who braved through Thailand’s summer weather, and all of our sponsors. If you’re interested in to sponsor a future camp, just leave a note when you donate online that the funds are for our cooking camp. As a small organization with no institutional funding, your support is so important to us!
With heavy hearts we are forced to cancel all of our cooking classes in Sri Lanka for the time being. The past few months have been unstable politically, and today that instability spilled over into violence. If you have friends or loved ones in Sri Lanka, we implore you to check in with them, as this is one of the most egregious attacks in recent history.
Join us in praying and donating towards helping the people of Sri Lanka during this difficult time. We will work with all existing guests to cancel and refund their bookings for our class in Sri Lanka. For those concerned, our students, nor the family teaching Sri Lankan recipes have been injured in the recents bombings. However, the situation continues to deteriorate, and due to the country’s tragic history of violence, we are canceling classes until further notice as a precaution.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, and join hands with those who love Sri Lanka in mourning victims of recent attacks, and praying for peace.
Last December, we had a special guest in the kitchen who has not only made a tremendous impact on our young women, but on many of her peers across the globe. Sixteen year old Lara Cortes, who was traveling Southeast Asia for the first time with her parents, stopped by for a market tour and Thai cooking class!
Holding the 2018 title of Miss Teen Puerto Rico, Lara is an accomplished athlete, artist, and musician. She loves swimming, and is often found snorkeling in her beach hometown of Isabela, PR. Here we ask her what her favorite part of hanging in the Courageous Kitchen was and how she enjoys giving back to her community in Isabela.
CK: Did you have any expectations of Bangkok before your arrival?
LC: Not really, once I found out I was going to Thailand I was just ecstatic to travel and broaden my horizons. I wanted to fill my mind with experiences and stories to learn and tell to others.
CK: How did it live up to that?
LC: Thailand surpassed my expectations, everything was just amazing and so filled with culture, beautiful sights to see and especially amazing, friendly people.
CK: Can you tell us a little bit about your experience with Courageous Kitchen?
LC: It was an amazing experience meeting the girls who run the class. I believe they are capable of amazing things if they keep working as hard as they do.
I also enjoyed going to the market and learning about the vegetables and fruit we were going to cook with in the class. My favorite dishes to make were Tom Yum and Mango Sticky Rice.
CK: What was your favorite memory from your trip?
LC: My favorite memory of the trip would be when we went to Chiang Mai and spent the whole day at the elephant sanctuary, feeding them, walking with them and of course bathing them.
CK: Any advice for first time young travelers to Bangkok?
LC: The best advice I can give any young traveler like myself is do your research and have fun! Things will inevitably go wrong, but if you’ve done your research, it’s easier to keep your cool and focus on getting past big obstacles young travelers face like homesickness, fatigue, and culture shock.
CK: What’s the best part of holding the ‘Miss Teen Puerto Rico’ title?
LC: The best part of holding the title is being able to use it to inspire others while giving a helping hand to those in need. I give back to my community by visiting children with down syndrome and I encourage other teens like myself to give back by helping the less fortunate.
The best part of holding the title is being able to use it to inspire others while giving a helping hand to those in need…
We want to thank Lara and her parents for taking our cooking class and volunteering with our young women. We appreciate Lara’s courageous spirit, and are confident that if she continues to be so passionate about giving back, great things await in her future!
February is an exciting month for Courageous Kitchen! Not only have our weekend classes for at risk youth began again, but there are lots of other food and travel happenings this time of year. Most notably, one of our founders, Dwight Turner, will be speaking at The Seasons press conference this week. The event is hosted by the Thailand Authority of Tourism (TAT), and has rounded up a panel of people from varying backgrounds whose businesses or personal passion are impacting Thailand for the better.
Here’s a sneak peek into TAT’s interview with Dwight, where he discusses starting Courageous Kitchen, and connecting his personal passion for food with his mission to feed and educate more children in Bangkok.
How did you start CK and what is your objective?
Courageous Kitchen began because I was looking for a way to give back in my free time, but I didn’t know what to do. When a friend invited me to help teach English in a few poorer communities, I fell in love with it. Gradually I wanted to contribute more and more.
Later when I moved outside of the city center, we had space for a kitchen and I began to combine these two passions. Quickly we learned that the kitchen is a great classroom. Students who were shy about speaking English suddenly had context, an application, and an urgency to speak in the kitchen. As their language skills improved, so did their confidence.
Why do you use food as a medium to help you achieve your goals?
I love to eat and Bangkok is full of food and food enthusiasts. So it’s a great way to get people’s attention and bring them together for a purpose. This is true even when it may seem like we don’t have anything in common. We may speak a different language, have different skin color, but when we sit at the table together, we share and learn about each other.
What do you think of Thai food? What makes Thai cuisine outstanding to you?
I love Thai food because of the diversity of influences on the cuisine. There is such a pronounced Indian influence, the Chinese influence is probably the strongest, and there’s an interesting impact from the hill tribes and neighboring countries in the region as well.
This makes Thai food versatile for different types of people. You may not love chili and chicken feet curry, you may be vegetarian, or have another preference, but there’s likely a Thai dish out there for you.
Why are you interested in helping society, and helping underprivileged kids in Bangkok?
As a Black American I was raised with very strong sense of social justice. That all people are valuable, and that all people should be treated equally. Until this becomes a reality, we have a lot of work to do to create a better future for today’s kids. That’s true all over the world, but trying to solve global problems can seem overwhelming. That’s why it’s best to start by being the change we want to see in our local communities.
As a nonprofit, what do you expect to get in return for you work?
As a nonprofit, my job is challenging and rewarding everyday. There’s a very real challenge to captivate people’s attention long enough to share about people in need, and convince them to take action. However, seeing students, who may have never been in a real restaurant before, imagining themselves as chefs, speaking English more confidently, and becoming leaders in their families is a pretty great reward.
Any upcoming plans for CK?
At the moment we’re looking into ways to grow and strengthen our business. We don’t want to be solely dependent on people’s donations, so we’re looking to offer more to tourists who love food, and are passionate about making a difference with their visit to Thailand.
Is there a place in Thailand that you’re especially impressed by and why?
I recently got married in Langsuan, Chumporn. Each time we visit my wife’s family there I usually spend time in the gardens picking fruit off of the nutmeg, taling pling, and other trees in the yard. We have one cousin with a palm orchard, and another growing durian! I know you may expect me to say mountains or beaches, but it’s hard to beat family and food!
Thank you to TAT for hosting Dwight this week! We look forward to continuing this discussion as Thailand’s responsible tourism scene continues to develop. Other guests on the panel include representatives from Pop Art Bann 36, Immanuel Music School, Tlejourn Shoes, and Thai celebrity Top Pipat Apirakthanakorn.
Trouvez-vous que la liste des choses à faire en tant que famille à Bangkok est limitée? Parents nous sentons ta douleur! La Thaïlande est peut-être une destination de rêve, mais il peut être particulièrement difficile de trouver des activités amusantes avec vos enfants au-delà des visites touristiques. Même parmi les cours de cuisine à Bangkok, très peu autorisent les enfants. Nous savons qu’il peut être décevant de découvrir l’un des meilleurs moyens de voir et d’apprendre sur la culture thaïlandaise, et peut être limité à certains membres de la famille en fonction de restrictions d’âge ou de taille.
Si vous ne trouvez pas de cours axés sur la famille à Bangkok, c’est parce que la façon dont les cours de cuisine sont organisés est trop centrée sur les affaires. Les Thaïlandais admettent tous que la cuisine est le centre de la maison asiatique, mais lorsqu’il s’agit de capter l’argent du tourisme, de nombreuses entreprises obligeront autant de personnes à suivre un «cours de cuisine» que possible. Pour les groupes de touristes en particulier, opérer dans les délais et pouvoir accueillir de grands groupes a usurpé l’importance d’être accessible et accueillant pour tous les âges.
Plus tôt cette année, nous avons pris à cœur les commentaires de nos clients qui souhaitaient y assister avec leurs enfants. Après tout, Courageous Kitchen est une organisation caritative fondée sur la conviction que la cuisine est une excellente salle de classe pour les personnes de tout âge, et en particulier pour les enfants. Ainsi, au lieu de faire de la place pour les parents avec des enfants, nous avons organisé un cours dédié aux familles qui souhaitent cuisiner ensemble.
Nous avons beaucoup appris en organisant ces nouvelles classes cette année. Avoir des enfants à cuisiner avec leurs parents a été particulièrement amusant à regarder, et le fait d’avoir trois générations d’une famille visitant notre cuisine a laissé des souvenirs qui dureront beaucoup plus longtemps que notre pad thai fait maison. La beauté de toute cette mémoire de vacances, c’est qu’elle nous aidera à maintenir et à compléter autant de familles dans le besoin. Nous remercions tous nos invités et sympathisants d’avoir rendu notre travail possible, et encourageons tout le monde où que vous soyez à entrer dans la cuisine en famille pendant ces vacances!
Are you finding the list of things to do as a family in Bangkok limiting? Parents we feel your pain! Thailand may be a dream destination, but finding fun activities to do with your kids beyond sightseeing, can be especially difficult. Even among cooking classes in Bangkok, very few allow children. We know it can be disappointing to find out one of the best ways to see and learn about Thai culture, may be limited to certain family members based on age or height restrictions.
The reason you don’t find family oriented classes in Bangkok, is because the way cooking classes are organized is too business centric. Thais all admit the kitchen is the center of the asian household, but when it comes to capturing the tourist dollar, many companies will force as many people into a ‘cooking class’ as they can. For tour groups especially, operating on schedule and being able to accommodate large groups has usurped the importance of being accessible and welcoming to all ages.
Earlier this year, we took the feedback from our customers requesting to attend with their children to heart. After all, Courageous Kitchen is a charity founded on the belief that the kitchen is a great classroom for people of all ages, and especially children. So instead of just making room for parents with kids, we carved out a class dedicated to families who want to cook together.
We’ve learned a lot from hosting these new classes this past year. Having kids cooking with their parents has been especially fun to watch, and having three generations of a family visit our kitchen has made memories that will last a lot longer than our homemade pad thai. The beauty of all this holiday memory making, is it will help us to sustain and supplement so many families who are in need. We appreciate all of our guests and supporters for making our work possible, and encourage everyone wherever you are to get into the kitchen with family this holiday!