Young Chefs partners with East Boston YMCA in cooking and science afterschool program

We are excited to announce a new partnership between Young Chefs and East Boston YMCA. Spearheaded by Alexis Daniels (Director of East Boston YMCA Teaching kitchen, director of Community Partnerships for Parachute Teachers, Teaching Fellow/Research Mentor at the Tufts REACH lab) and Vayu Maini Rekdal (Harvard PhD student and Young Chefs co-founder), this collaboration will connect the unique Young Chefs curriculum with the resources and leadership of the YMCA to bring science and cooking education to Boston Youth.

Specifically, Alexis Daniels and volunteers will lead two five-week cooking and science classes for students enrolled in the YMCA afterschool program during the spring semester, exploring everything from the molecular basis of spiciness to the microbial metabolism and ecology. The lessons will take place in the YMCA teaching kitchen, an amazing facility teaching culinary skills and healthy easting to East Boston families, teens, adults, and seniors, as well as to youth in their after school programs.  They grow food in their community garden that is used in our kitchen, and work with the local farmer’s market, and a local farmer, to promote the use of fresh, sustainable produce and community supported agriculture. The classes will be taught in both Spanish and English, and  Vayu will support the implementation and evaluation of the lessons in this new context.

We are excited to get this started in Boston! Please email if you want to get involved!




Young Chefs/Kitchen Garden Laboratory at Harvard

by Vayu Maini Rekdal

Had a great time working with Bill Yosses showcasing our work with Young Chefs Program: From Cooking to Science and Kitchen Garden Laboratory in front of 300 people at Harvard University. These public lectures are what first inspired my thinking around cooking, science, and education, so it was a true honor to be up there on Monday. Thanks to those who made it!

Lots of interest in what we do! Lots of inspiration for the future!


Young Chefs at South by South Lawn!

Visionary advisor and co-founder Vayu Maini Rekdal was honored to be invited to present Young Chefs Program: From Cooking to Science at Barack Obama‘s South By South Lawn at The White House. Alongside Bill Yosses, Jose Andres and Green Bronx Machine he demoed of some of Young Chefs cooking-science lessons, and presented our vision for the future as part of the “SEED to STOVE exhibit”. The night concluded with a discussion on climate change between Barack Obama and Leonardo DiCaprio. What a wonderful celebration of art, ideas, and service. Thanks to all the people in Young Chefs who have taken us this far, and thanks toHarvard University for funding.

Young Chefs in Boston and Cambridge: A Summer of Learning

As we previously mentioned in a blog post, we continued our collaboration with the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Harvard Medical School this summer for a second round of Young Chefs curriculum implemented through their outreach programs. Like last summer, the programs were spearheaded by Frank Mooney, a recent college graduate and Math Teacher who brings his expertise and love for math to the kitchen. Young Chefs co-founded Vayu Maini Rekdal acted in a supporting role, providing feedback and suggestions for implementation of the curriculum. 

50-70 Elementary and middle school students in the Allston, Cambridge Community Center, and Margaret Fuller House programs (funded and supported by Harvard SEAS) have attended weekly classes all summer, learning about everything from density, emulsions, and chocolate, to hummus and salsa.

In addition, Frank Mooney organized activities for high school students part of the Native American Summer High School Program. Run through Harvard Medical School, this program brings students from the Fort Peck (Montana) and Hopi (Arizona) reservations to engage with scientific learning in a college setting. The student learning is structured around a case-based curriculum, where students will engage with science of various problems that they face in their own communities, including obesity and addiction. 

The cooking and science portion of the program ran for four days and focused on the role of microbes in human nutrition and food production. Lessons included Hummus, Salsa, Salad Dressings, and Chocolate, interweaved with activities and homework focused on nutrition and human physiology.

We are so grateful to Frankie Mooney, Harvard SEAS, and Harvard Medical School for putting our curriculum to use in such meaningful settings. We are excited to continue our collaboration long into the future!

All photos published with permission of Frankie Mooney:  


Getting back to bases


When Young Chefs was founded at Carleton College, we wrote and tested lesson plans through and independent study course. These original lessons have stood the test of time (or at least a couple years), but we haven’t stopped looking for new ways to bring science into the kitchen!

Currently underway is a lesson on homemade pretzels. Our Curriculum Coordinator, Laurel, got interested in this topic when she realized we don’t usually talk about using alkalines in the kitchen. Acidic ingredients are common and identifiable, but where are the bases? Are they even relevant for cooking?

For pretzels, the answer is absolutely yes! Pretzels are made by boiling dough in a basic solution (either lye or baking soda + water) before baking. The negative charges in the base hasten browning in the dough, and the sodium molecules deliver a distinct savory taste. This is where we get the color and flavor of a pretzel’s crust!

To try pretzel rolls at home, check out our recipe in the Kitchen Experiments [link] page of the For Students section. You can make the process quick and easy by starting with store-bought biscuit dough.  

Laurel turned her batch of pretzel rolls into a sandwich spread with mozzarella and roasted red pepper, curried chicken salad, and flank steak and arugula.

Young Chefs continues partnership with Harvard SEAS for a second summer of community outreach

Following last summer’s successful community outreach endeavor by Young Chefs and Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), which saw our curriculum being used in multiple settings in Boston and Cambridge, it is our great pleasure to announce that our collaboration will continue for yet another summer. Go cooking and science!

These programs are all run by the SEAS outreach department, and aim to bring the Young Chefs ( and Harvard cooking-science ( curricula to underserved youth in the local community. Like last summer, the programs are spearheaded by Frank Mooney, a recent college graduate and Math Teacher who brings his expertise and love for math to the kitchen. If you are interested in getting involved, please email

The programs to be run this summer include the following: 

1. Native American High School Program: June 27th – 30th

Run through Harvard Medical School, this program brings students from the Fort Peck (Montana) and Hopi (Arizona) reservations to engage with scientific learning in a college setting. The student learning is structured around a case-based curriculum, where students will engage with science of various problems that they face in their own communities, including obesity and addiction. The cooking and science portion of the program runs for three days and discusses the science of indigenous foods, including chocolate, corn, and chili peppers. The program is sponsored by Harvard medical School

Funded by Harvard SEAS, the following programs target elementary school students from Allston, Brighton, or Boston, and invite them to experience cooking and science as part of daily summer camps. Every week, students attend a different two-hour lesson where they learn about everything from emulsions and density to pH and sensory neuroscience.

2. Cambridge Community Center (New this year): Every Tuesday from July 12th to August 9th

3. Allston Ed Portal: Every Wednesday from July 13th to August 10th

4. Margaret Fuller House: Every Friday from July 15th to August 12th



The Bronx, Hummus, Bill Yosses & The Green Bronx Machine

Monday was an exciting day at the PS 55 Benjamin Franklin school! 5th grade students explored nitrogen fixation through making different kinds of hummus. The lesson was led by the dynamic team of the PS 55 school, Bill Yosses, the former White House Pastry Chef, and the Green Bronx Machine.  This event was the public opening of what is called The National Health and Wellness Center, a re imagined of the school library. In attendance were school Principal Luis Torres, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Dr Katie Wilson from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, NYS Assemblyman Michael Blake, NYC Council Member Vanessa Gibson, and The Green Bronx Machine Founder Stephen Ritz! Exploring science through cooking, and legumes, have a lot of power to bring such incredible people together.
The Young Chefs Program was the content provider of this event. Click here to get access to check out the Hummus and Nitrogen Fixation lesson plans that was used, as well as our other lesson plans. Dr. Katie Wilson in particular was a fan. “The Young Chef’s Program is a fantastic resource” she said.
(Above: Left to right: Michael Blake, Vanessa Gibson, Stephen Ritz, Ruben Diaz Jr., Bill Yosses, Luis E. Torres.)

Stephen Ritz, Dr. Katie Wilson and Bill Yosses with 5th grade class after the finished enjoying the hummus they created.


Dr. Katie Wilson talks with 5th grade students

Updates from founding chapters in Northfield, and Faribault, MN

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Young Chefs started at the local middle school in Northfield, MN, by students at Carleton College. The program soon expanded to another middle school in Faribault, MN, and today, the two programs are running stronger than ever. Recently, another program was added: a hands-on gardening program; funded by Kitchen Garden Laboratory, this gives students the opportunity to grow food and continue the learning process over the summer. The programs serve youth from under-served communities, and is run by 20 undergraduate volunteers from Carleton college. These volunteers not only teach science and cooking in weekly lessons, but also build meaningful mentoring relationships with the students, inspiring them to succeed in the kitchen, classroom, and beyond.

We reached out to the directors of the programs and checked in how things are going. Here are the latest updates:

Gardening Program

As the first official year for the Northfield Middle School garden program, it’s been an exciting one and we are continuing to learn! In the Fall and Winter, we focused on cooking classes, each with a garden connection. Highlights include a Shiitake mushroom kit paired with mushroom pizza, tacos with ingredients that will be grown in the garden, a pasta competition with a mystery vegetable that will also be grown in the garden and a fieldtrip to Farmhouse that included pancake making. Now that spring is upon us, we are turning our attention to the garden! For our first class a few weeks ago, students learned about the different parts of plants that we eat and also participated in a germination activity. This week, students weeded, added topsoil and made a variety of dips– hummus and salsa! Looking ahead, we are excited to start planting soon and are also hoping to organize a garden kick-off party like last year!  by Erin Roth, Carleton ’16

Faribault Middle School Young Chefs

Winter term in Faribault brought a group of new students, lots of culinary creativity, and experimentation with using worksheets instead of lab notebooks to record observations during each lesson. We began with using fractions to adjust recipes for cupcakes and frosting to make the correct amount for the class, then explored olfaction with spiced nuts. Our students loved making the nuts extra spicy and we had to be careful so people didn’t snack too much before we were finished! The next two weeks we brought back the density lesson with smoothies, which they continue to remember, and protein coagulation with meringues. Our last week we had a culinary competition with breakfast foods, which resulted in amazing vegan, cornbread pancakes, smoothies, egg scrambles, and parfaits. The worksheets worked well to get students to record hypotheses and observations from every lesson.
During spring term in Faribault we have had largely the same students that were there in the winter which has allowed us to push the kids in their cooking and science abilities.  We started off the term by creating yogurt parfaits with granola and cooked fruit.  Students were given different fruits to choose from and ended up creating poached pears, fried and battered bananas (including an egg free one created by a student who is allergic to eggs), and pears cooked with brown sugar.  We then added in the science component, talking about oxidation and food waste the next week by looking at the browning of potatoes in the Oxidizing Potatoes lesson plan.  The students created different potato pancakes with browned and unbrowned fruit and realized that the resultant taste is the same.  We students also used their culinary creativity skills to create their own variations on sour cream and cucumber raita.  This week we talked about starches and made risotto, observing different levels of gelatinization in different rices.  The science was easy to see and the students immediately picked up on what was going on.  All of the students loved trying the different risottos made with different vegetables and rice. We are excited to bring them on a field trip to Carleton at the end of a term to do a science experiment, extracting dye from M&Ms in the Carleton Chemistry lab with Dr. Deborah Gross!

by Eric Tallman ’17

Northfield Middle School Young Chefs

During the winter, we transitioned to using worksheets for the students to record their ideas about the science and observations of the cooking. As always, we were able to explore a diverse range of cooking skills and science concepts. We started by letting the students to develop their recipe-reading abilities by having them mathematically manipulate the portions of recipes cupcake recipes. In another lesson, they learned about the sense of smell and chemical receptors through making spiced nuts. Later, they examined density by making columns with smoothies and juices. One week, we had a guest lecturer come in and talk about gluten and gluten intolerance. The final week was a cooking competition in which they got to use their culinary creativity to construct breakfast dishes.  Spring term in Northfield has started amazingly well. The students pay attention during the science lessons and are willing to try whatever we make that week. Our students also seem to have a good grasp on what a hypothesis is and some simple scientific concepts such as density we have gone over, along with an enthusiasm for the cooking! Our first week back we made healthy dessert parfaits, making three kinds of cooked fruits and having our students share each of their creations. Then, we talked about oxidation and eating browned food by making two kinds of potato pancakes, some with potatoes that had been set out for a couple hours. We were impressed with how fearless they were when frying and everyone loved the results! This last week, we took on risotto and talked about starches and what makes risotto with arborio rice creamier than Jasmine rice. They were very interested in making comparisons between preparing risotto and rice that they had made at home. We are excited to bring them to Carleton at the end of a term to do a science experiment, extracting dye from M&Ms in the Carleton Chemistry lab with Dr. Deborah Gross!

By Rebecca Fairchild, ’16

NYC STEM Institute: Training Teachers in the Cooking-Science Curriculum

All our lessons are available at

Former executive White House pastry chef Bill Yosses and I were just invited to train teachers at the NYC STEM institute in our cooking-science model, developed by students at Carleton College.

About the institute

The New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) is committed to working with school leaders and teachers to build their capacity in, and develop a shared understanding of, high quality STEM education. The STEM Institutes serve to provide professional learning opportunities to schools in their efforts to identify and develop a STEM focused approach to learning that supports student achievement. With generous support from the General Electric Foundation and Computer Science for All partners, the NYCDOE is excited to offer the third STEM Institute, for teacher teams of 2 to 3 educators.

About our sessions

Science and cooking are beautifully interconnected. Cooking not only hides a tremendous wealth of scientific concepts, but also embodies the scientific method as practiced by scientists; it is a highly experimental process, guided by trial and error. Therefore, cooking is a perfect model system for exploring the wonders of Biology, Physics, and Chemistry in great detail, from molecules and cells, to organisms and planets.

Here we will present specific strategies for teaching STEM concepts through culinary experiments aligned with the Next-Generation Science Standards. Throughout these sessions, participants will build and understanding of the educational philosophy that informs our work, and more importantly, will learn how to integrate cooking into STEM classrooms from educational and logistical standpoints. Special emphasis is placed on the interconnectedness of molecules, organisms, and earth systems to illustrate how cooking experiments can be taught individually or can form entire units. Finally we will introduce the MIT food computer, a programmable low-cost portable system for growing vegetables in the classroom and learning about the science related to organismal growth. Taken together, these sessions will illustrate central STEM concepts through the medium of food, from the seed to the plate, and back.

Goals of sessions

  • Explore the connection between cooking and science as an educational tool
  • Learn specific strategies, lessons, and experiments for teaching NGSS-based STEM concepts through food
  • Learn how to access and use resources publicly available for cooking-science education in NYC STEM classrooms

What we did

DAY 1: Edible Science: What, How, and When?

Afternoon session

This session will introduce participants to the connection between science and cooking as it relates to STEM education. We will share our experiences and demonstrate a range of examples of fun experiments and scientific concepts that can be explored in the kitchen. Through interactive discussions and demonstrations, participants will get to know each other as well as the general area to be explored over the next three days. We will demonstrate fun examples such as the exploding milkshake, spherification, the instant cake, and more.

DAY 2: Photosynthesis, Respiration, and Global Carbon Cycles

Morning session: RESPIRATION

This session focuses on the process of respiration and explores the fundamental equation of aerobic life: the transformation of glucose and oxygen into carbon dioxide and water. Participants will learn how to address common student misconceptions and NGS standards by making Taiwanese steamed buns and observing respiration in a range of contexts.

Afternoon session: PHOTOSYNTHESIS

Here we explore another essential component of life as we know it: photosynthesis. The lesson focuses on the electro-magnetic spectrum and its relevance for plant growth. Specifically, we will explore the wave-particle duality of light, the relationship between energy and wave properties, and how this relates to the process of photosynthesis. We will demonstrate how different wavelengths of light are exploited for different purposes in nature. Participants will learn about a programmable experiment on the MIT Food Computer, which provides a controlled environment for growing plants under different light conditions. In addition, participants make a salad and indulge in the deliciousness that photosynthesis provides.

DAY 3: Interactions between organisms

Morning session: HUMMUS

Many students know that the atmosphere has a large fraction of nitrogen, but may not be aware of its role in organismal growth, ecosystems, and global geochemical cycles. In this lesson, students learn about how some plants known as legumes obtain nitrogen from the air with the help of symbiotic bacteria. The lesson explores the biochemical basis of this plant-microbe interactions and highlights its implications for the health of the plant, humans, and the planet as a whole. By making delicious hummus with legumes from around the world, participants will understand how nitrogen makes it from the atmosphere to the soil and back, through animals like humans.


During the hummus lesson, participants will become familiar with different spices used to flavor their concoctions. In nature, spice molecules serve a different purpose than flavor; they are often responsible for mediating interactions between organisms, for example deterring predators for consuming plants, attracting pollinators, or killing pathogenic microbes. This lessons starts off with a discussion of spice molecules and their role in nature, and progresses into a discussion of human perception and sensation. How do we sense the olfactory world on a molecular level? How does our brain compute sensory information to create a holistic experience of flavor? Participants will engage in different olfactory experiments involving spices, and will learn how to create their own curries for use in a variety of contexts.


Teachers worked in teams to develop their own cooking-science lesson to implement in their classrooms. Lots of great ideas floating around, including building an oven, learning about solubility and molecular properties through four-week blocks on sensation, perception, and molecular solubility, and lots more!!! We will publish the teacher lessons soon.