Culinary Connections

Cooking with Culinary Connections

Culinary Connections is an innovative, immersive kitchen experience for individuals to learn culinary techniques, nutritional literacy, communication and coping skills. Through a variety of courses created for various audiences, students are better able to plan and prepare balanced meals and ultimately enhance overall health, wellness and independence.

“No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.” – Julia Child

The overall goal of Culinary Connections is to teach culinary skills and nutritional literacy that will lead to overall wellness, far beyond the classroom. Classes are taught using a variety of teaching methods for cooking techniques, food diversity, nutritional literacy, kitchen safety, sanitation and more.

Individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD) are often dependent on others to meet their basic needs, especially when it comes to food choice, access and preparation. While culinary classes exist, typically they lack individualization for learners with different needs. As a result, Easterseals UCP developed Culinary Connections, a brand-new program that combines our historical excellence in serving the IDD community with an innovative approach to enhancing overall wellness by learning in the kitchen. The team from this life-changing program provides a variety of experiential opportunities, tailored to each individual’s learning needs and life stage.

Pilot group outcomes


of participants increased their food group identification.


improved their understanding of how to put out a kitchen fire.


of participants were interested in taking another course.

Culinary Connections Participant Cooking

Culinary Connections offers three experiential courses

Multiple courses and class are offered throughout the year. Submit an inquiry for specific dates in your area! **Coming Soon: Culinary wellness programs for military families and youth in foster care.

Recipe for Independence

“Recipe for Independence” is an interactive skill-building course designed to enable more independent and healthy habits for students. Participants learn cooking skills, healthy meal choices, kitchen safety, sanitation and more.

  • Ages 16+
  • Eight, 1.5 hour sessions
  • Level 1 and Level 2 classes
Cooking with Friends

Our kitchen is the playground! “Cooking with Friends” is a recreational introduction to the culinary world. Students explore food, communication and play while families enjoy an educational respite activity for their loved one.

  • Ages 7-15
  • Four, 1.5 hour sessions
Community Based Mobile Pop-Up

We bring the learning lab to you. This three-week condensed course introduces learners to healthy eating and food preparation in a community setting during three weekly sessions. Through partnerships with host organizations, we can bring a mobile set-up and teach from anywhere!

Thank you to our sponsors!

This service would not be possible without our generous partners. Special thanks to New Hanover Community Endowment for funding programming in New Hanover County. We’d like to acknowledge NC Cooperative Extension, New Hanover County as a supporting partner. Additionally, thanks to ECU Health (formerly Vidant Health) for supporting our 2021 Pilot program in Pitt County, NC.

Culinary Connections sponsor New Hanover Community Endowment

Culinary Connections sponsor NC Cooperative Extension

Culinary Connections sponsor ECU Health

Here’s what individuals are saying…

“My favorite part about cooking class was making new friends.”

“This program has helped her a lot… She has all the confidence in the world that she can cook anything.”

“He ate blueberries?” This mom could not get her child to eat fruit, despite food therapy and other interventions, until he participated in a Culinary Connections class!

Be a part of our story.