“This was a really fun experience for our whole family. Also wonderful to know our tourism dollars we’re helping local people. Highly recommended."
Guest, October 2018
"Amazing cooking class. Lily, Nisha and Dwight were wonderful. I enjoyed the class immensely, and what a great organization!"
Guest, November 2019
"If you are in Bangkok you MUST visit Courageous Kitchen! Dwight and everyone gave us a top notch cooking experience. The food is SO good and you feel like you’re at home with family and friends while you’re there. I will return every chance that I get."
Guest, October 2018
Micro-Giving This Holiday with Amazon Smile
Don’t forget if you’re shopping with Amazon, this holiday you can select Courageous Kitchen as your charity of choice with Amazon Smile.
As your designated charity Amazon donates a small fraction of the proceeds of each sale back to our charity!
It's that time of year in Bangkok, when the weather drops only 5 degrees and we have our official winter angst! While we await a cooler breeze to arrive, each day we're inching toward the year end holidays, with lots of happenings around town for both tourists and...
We love social validation when we’re shopping. This goes for everything from taking a friend shopping when you’re feeling indecisive, to asking a friend their opinion on the charity you’re choosing to support. That’s why it’s a huge accomplishment that our Courageous Kitchen cooking class for tourists has surpassed 100 reviews on Airbnb Experiences. This is no easy accomplishment, and we’re proud to have garnered so many positives feedback in less than a year on the platform.
What is an Airbnb Social Impact Experience?
This past January we celebrated a year since the launch of our social enterprise offering cooking classes to travelers visiting Bangkok. As a new business, we really struggled during the first year to get new customers. Fortunately, we did have some success as one of the early experiences on the Airbnb marketplace called Airbnb Experiences. Most people know the company as an affordable way to find lodging when traveling, but they have recently begun offering other activities to travelers looking for things to do in new cities, including some with a significant social impact.
Without a doubt it can be hard to choose a cooking class in Bangkok. There are so many classes at different price levels and there are a variety of other online markets as well. This means when customers find our class highly recommended by Airbnb’s customers, they can expect our class is different from the run of the mill cooking classes offered by tour companies. In addition, as a recognized 501c3 in good standing, Airbnb collects no commission on the bookings made on their site. That means more money for buying quality ingredients, equipment, and funding our outreach in Bangkok!
Growing Pains and Negative Reviews
We’ve been teaching children in the marginalized community we serve to thrive in kitchen spaces for 5 years now. However, when we started this fun activity to help pump nutrition into the community, we didn’t expect it to prepare us to later host professional classes. In fact, teaching 30 children to cook at once would seem a lot more intimidating to most people, compared with the stress of teaching a small group of foreigners. However, we’ve had to learn other aspects of running the business beyond the teaching the hard way. For example, pricing can have a big impact on experience. If we’re priced too low, people book in hurry, classes are more crowded, and guests may arrive not knowing much about our organization. On the contrary, if the pricing is too high, we have fewer customers and their expectations for the cooking class are unrealistic.
Everyone who steps into our kitchen is different and we want to have an experience all can enjoy. This presents a unique challenge, however, that is especially difficult when managing different languages and personalities in a group. So while our reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, we have also had negative reviews impact our bookings. When customers are unhappy, we discuss their feedback as a team and consider how to improve the experience in the future. Here are common reasons people don’t enjoy the class, that we’re working to mitigate or have already solved:
Customer doesn’t know the class is charity run
Customer is uncomfortable because of heat, chairs, chili, amount of standing, etc…
Customer does not speak strong English
The most common problem our team has encountered when hosting guests from around the world has been around managing expectations. Since many customers book in a hurry, they often don’t read all of the info about the class. This means customers can arrive expecting to be cooking in a professional kitchen, or in today’s tense political climate, may not know until arriving they have booked a class in support of refugees — often a divisive political issue. All of these issues are exacerbated when customers don’t speak much English or Thai. We won’t be able to solve all of these problems instantly, but we strive to produce a high quality class each session, and want to be transparent about the challenges.
How You Can Help
As people learn about opportunities with Airbnb, it becomes more competitive. We have to work harder at generating more direct bookings, instead of being overly dependent on Airbnb or another third party. We always need help sharing our cooking class with friends visiting Bangkok, and need continued support for the educational support we offer those in need. Finally, if you’ve attended a class, consider leaving a review on our growing Tripadvisor profile as well!
Thank you for following our project, and until the next update stay courageous!
June marks the beginning of summer for many of us, but it also marks the start of another significant event for the Courageous Kitchen and many refugee communities across the globe. Every year in mid-June, several organizations host what has been declared as ‘Refugee Week’, with June 20th serving as the week’s capstone — this year will commemorate the 20th Annual World Refugee Day! As we join in the double-decade long celebration, we urge you to also join us by honoring the resilience and contributions of refugees and asylum seekers worldwide by taking action in the following ways:
1) Listen – All over the world events are happening for world refugee day. Be sure you find a local event and show your support by attending and listening to the stories of struggle and triumph. Events range from food tasting parties to discussion panels, join or start a conversation near you!
3) Cook/Eat – This may come as no surprise, but we believe the kitchen is one of the best places to learn about someone new, and connect with their culture. In diverse places in the west, we may take for granted how someone, or their ancestors, made harrowing journeys and sacrifices. World Refugee Day gives us an excuse to ask people about their heritage, culture, and an opportunity to celebrate these differences over something that binds us all, food!
4) Share – In today’s political climate it can be unpopular to show your support publicly for refugees. Refugees are used as a political tool in some countries to propel xenophobic campaigns and policies. Wherever we are in the world, we can show our support for refugees and insist people recognize their human rights. If you join in the celebrations, document them by using the hashtags #RefugeeWeek2018 and #WithRefugees.
5) Give Back – When you connect with your local refugee organizations find a way to donate, volunteer, or give back another way. These organizations are often underfunded and understaffed (speaking from experience), so if you can find a way to donate funds or time consistently for a few months, you can really make a difference for people in need and small organizations serving them. We’re asking people interested in supporting our mission to help by sponsoring a family.
Photo: Courageous Kitchen’s pre-teen students pose with Canadian chef Cameron Stauch.
Doing anything special this World Refugee Day? Please reach out and let us know!
For all of our guests joining in on our Bangkok classes this coming April, we’re proud to announce a special menu!
Songkran is one of Thailand’s most famous holidays, especially for locals. When the heat of the Thai summer is in full swing, people come out to celebrate Thai New Year and the harvest season with great food, drink, and giant water fights! The holiday lasts for several days, so during this time people usually make the migration back to their hometowns in the provinces to be with family. If you’re visiting Bangkok, during this time we’d also like for you to get a taste of the Songkran celebration.
The Songkran in the Countryside menu is as follows:
Soothing Jungle Soup with Pumpkin and Mushroom
Papaya Salad Sans Papaya with Traditional Herbal Thai Whisky Tasting (optional)
Choice of Glazed Pork Neck or Banana Leaf Steamed Fish with Fresh ‘Jaew’ Dipping Sauce
Dok Jok Lotus Cookies and Ice Cream topped with Crispy Mung Beans
Fresh Fruit from the Local Market
The festival with origins in India aims to celebrate the harvest season and inaugurate the start of the rainy season. Traditionally this is an extremely important time for people around the country, especially in the rural Northeast. Issan, pronounced ‘e-san’, Thailand’s poorest region is often where people forsake village life to earn money living and working in Bangkok. The five course menu pays homage to the people of the Northeast, while giving you a chance to experience a taste of these special provincial dishes. This experience is especially recommended for people who may already be familiar with the typical Thai dishes you see repeated daily in the average cooking classes in Bangkok. That means if you want to go deeper than pad thai and green curry, this is the perfect time of year to try cooking some new dishes with us!
Read These FAQs to Be Prepared for Songkran
When is the 2018 Songkran Festival happening? Friday, April 13th – Monday, April 16th in most places. However, some cities may have their own dates.
Should I be prepared to get wet and splashed by strangers? Yes. When we visit the market in the morning, many of the market goers, people in the street, and even cars going by may be splashing water.
What items should I bring with me? We keep towels available, but you may want to bring along dry clothing if you’d like to change after visiting the market. We have a dry bag where you can safely keep your cell phone or other important small items. If you have a water gun, bring it! Most importantly bring a sense of adventure and your appetite and it should be a fun, festive, and wet time for everyone involved.
Is Songkran a safe holiday? Motor accidents, especially due to drunk driving make Songkran a dangerous holiday. You should avoid riding motorbikes, and wear your seatbelt when traveling. If joining large events happening in Bangkok, avoid taking valuables to prevent petty thefts and them getting ruined by water. We hope you come and enjoy Songkran without incident, but consider it our responsibility to inform of some dangers associated with the festival.
Should I book in advance? For the best experience, we do recommend booking in advance. Since we prefer to do small classes, the spaces can fill up quickly. If our morning 10am class is full, we may give you the option to come during our 2pm session. We will also be running our evening kids dinner and demo classes during this period.
Can I request a different menu? If you would like to cook more classic Thai dishes, hilltribe or other menu theme, please let us know in advance and we’ll try to adjust accordingly. Please message us with other special requests, but due to the amount of interest during this time of year, we may not be able to honor every request.
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!
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!