It’s 3:52 p.m. on March 9 and four chefs have eight more minutes to prepare their cooking stations. Sauteed mushrooms are launched into orbit, just to fall back into their sizzling pans; the smell of garlic looms through the space in a heavy haze.
At 4:00 p.m., a busload of YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School students will pile into Venturef0rth, ready to learn how to make crepes alongside those working at the coworking space. The program is called “Tuck Into Tech,” hosted by Kitchen Cred, a local nonprofit that teaches life skills to at-risk students through the culinary arts.
"We're using cooking to teach life skills with a goal of creating happier and healthier communities."
Tuesday’s Kitchen Cred event will feature the likes of chefs Missy Gurmankin (More Thyme For You), Michelle Bagley (Plate Expectations), Miya Pack (Lord of the Kitchen Cupboard) and Ari Miller (FoodUnderground.net).
Five more minutes. A bearded man is intensely inspecting a pile of Granny Smiths for bruises. Employees from American Certified, BrainDo, Cnverge and Argyle Interactive rush to wrap up the day’s work, anxious to get started.
“We’re using cooking to teach life skills with a goal of creating happier and healthier communities,” said Kitchen Cred founder Doug Barg, who says the idea for his nonprofit was born in the early-morning hours of March 28, 2012, in the shower. “Learn to cook, succeed in life,” he said.
Ultimately, Kitchen Cred’s mission is to use cooking as a way to open doors for at-risk youth, in hopes that they will get a taste for a career they may have a hidden passion for. In today’s case, tech is on the menu.
The kids pour in. They’re a bit timid at first. Some too shy to speak. One student, seemingly skilled in the craft, flips his pastry in its saucer. The room erupts with applause. For the next 20 minutes, everyone in the room experiments with crepe flips. Just like that, the nervousness dissipates.
“We wanted the techies and the kids to meet each other on a level playing field,” said Barg, who admits that some kids will be better than their elders when it comes to cookin’ up some crepes. And that’s a good thing.
“Kitchen Cred is not about cooking as an end result,” said Barg. “It’s a means to an end.”
The event was sponsored by Tech Impact. The nonprofit was scoping out students for ITWorks, the nonprofit’s six-week program that corrals young adults who haven’t completed college and supplies them with two IT certifications.
As the cooking came to a close, the students broke off into dinner tables categorized by career paths — entrepreneurship, coding, graphic design, photography and culinary arts. One student named Malik skipped grabbing a meal to nab the first seat at the coding table.
“I want to go to college to learn how to code and program video games,” he said. Skipping a meal to learn about careers in coding? Now we’re cooking with gas.