Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

« Previous Post | Daily Dish Home | Next Post »

Teaching cooking and much more to kids with special needs

January 8, 2010 |  6:02 am


A boy who took classes at a recreational program for children with special needs was – like most children – a major pizza fan. His mother wanted to find a cooking class for him.

Thus was born a partnership between Piccolo Chef, which offers cooking classes for kids, and Leaps...n...Boundz, a recreational program for children with special needs.

“Not only have the children slowly become tolerant of the loudest of kitchen appliances, but because they’re involved with the food from start to finish, they’ve touched, tasted and, in some cases, added new foods to their limited repertoire,” said Joclynn Benjamin, one of the Founders of Leaps...n...Boundz.

The first classes were successful enough that a second session has been scheduled, beginning  Wednesday.

Leaps...n...Boundz had started a dinner club, Benjamin said. The participants bought and prepared food and then sat down for a meal. But it was held in a gym -- and at Piccolo, the students can work in a professional kitchen, she said.


In the first set of classes at Piccolo, younger children learned about foods by color. Older children made California favorites, including sushi and fish tacos, Benjamin said.

“It’s very sensory for the kids. Some of them like it. And some of the kids do not like it, because the different textures are unnerving. Some kids don’t want to mush the dough with their hands; they’d rather use the rolling pin,” Benjamin said.

The classes aim to teach nutrition and healthful  eating as well as self-confidence, cooperation and other skills; the children come with a range of abilities, Benjamin said.

“We realized that cooking and time in the kitchen was another activity that some of their kids might enjoy as part of social skills and life skills classes,” said Lilian Palmieri, who founded Piccolo with Tina Fanelli Moraccini.

The next set of five-week classes begins Wednesday; tuition runs $225 to $450 and includes social skills lessons. For information, contact Leaps...n...Boundz.

The course for younger children will include such items as strawberry oatmeal scones, pizza and quiche. For older children, the foods will be “Classic Comfort Foods -- Revamped,” including pot pies and meatloaf.

Piccolo Chef is located in Culver City at the Westside Children’s Center, which provides foster care and reunification services to children who experience child abuse or neglect.

-- Mary MacVean

Photos of class by Joclynn Benjamin