Food is not just a source of sustenance for our bodies, but can also be a source of growth for our cultural and social understandings, Mia Kotikovski says.
Kotikovski, who grew up with an appreciation for various cultures through food, founded Cultured Kids Cuisine to help children discover just that, with programing promoting love and tolerance through food.
The Brooklyn-based organization offers services like virtual cooking classes, food anthropology courses, recipe kits and educational blog posts for kids, and has more than 100 high school and college student involved. And the classes are all free.
The organization is also totally women-led, with Kotikovski placing a strong focus on closing the gender gap. “We have an all-women team because I strongly believe that we need to end the gender gap in business and entrepreneurship,” Kotikovski said.
“We offer all our volunteers and other aspiring leaders resources like empowering entrepreneurs events where successful female founders come and share their tips for success.”
As part of setting up children for success, a main goal is introducing foods from around the world to promote a new kind of understanding for generations to come.
“Our main goal is to foster cultural awareness and appreciation through food in the youngest generation,” Kotikovski said.
“We do that through our cooking workshops where our training team of Culinaria — which are our chefs — cook dishes around the world with the kids and teach them about the culture and the history of the dish.”
Since the program launched in 2012, students have cooked dishes from several different countries. Currently, they are learning about different cultural foods in Asia, with plans to “visit” the Middle East in coming weeks.
Similar to other organizations, Cultured Kids Cuisine has been operating remotely for the past year. While food is best enjoyed in person, Kotikovoski said the remote layout allowed people from around the world to participate.
“We’re able to reach people from Europe, Africa, Asia—all around the world. It’s incredible that these people can benefit from these free resources,” Kotikovski said.
The beauty of the courses was children learnt to cook for themselves, and could do so with new and exciting ingredients, Kotikovski said. Children are notorious for being picky eaters and can dismiss a good meal simply because of how it looks or how it smells without first trying it. Through this program, children were more receptive to trying new foods, while also getting the chance to understand the history behind the dish and what made it special to a particular culture, she said.
“After the cooking session, they’re more willing to try the food and then they go and teach their parents and friends,” Kotikovski said.
Kotikovski said Cultured Kids Cuisine planned to expand its team to include non-English speakers so people from non-English speaking countries could participate.
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