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
of R4I participants maintained or increased their kitchen tool and skill identification
of caregivers reported improvement in students’ cooking skills and food exploration
of participants were interested in taking another course
Culinary Connections offers three experiential culinary arts courses and two specialized kitchen group therapy opportunities:
Multiple courses and class are offered throughout the year. Submit an inquiry for specific dates in your area!
Two Specialized Kitchen Group Therapy Opportunities
1. Culinary Arts
A collection of culinary classes for a variety of age groups and focus areas.
- Recipe for Independence
- Cooking with Friends
- Community-Based Pop Ups
- Coming Soon! Cooking Club
Recipe for Independence
An interactive skill-building course designed for adults of varying abilities to learn more independent and healthy habits in the kitchen. Topics include: cooking techniques, food diversity, healthy alternatives, kitchen safety & sanitation, and understanding recipes. Classes consist of eight sessions that last 1.5 hours each, led by a disability-informed culinary team. Each session focuses on one specific skill where participants are given multiple opportunities to practice the skill while producing a recipe they enjoy eating at the end!
- Ages 16+
- Level 1 and Level 2 classes
- Multiple instructional techniques utilized, such as: photos & videos, modeling, task analysis, adaptive kitchen tools and so much more!
Cooking with Friends
A course for younger children to explore the kitchen, build on developmental play & communication skills and have fun in a social setting. “The kitchen is my playground” —there are no lectures or skill drills, simply a way to get comfortable with kitchen tools, tastes and techniques. We use our imaginations and practice important friendship activities for a positive food-centered experience.
- Ages 7-12
- Four, 1 hour sessions
Community-based, small group activities presented in partnership with other programs. These allow more individuals to participate at various locations.
- Themed ingredients
- Nutritional literacy information
- Hands-on activities
- Food exploration
- Smoothie bike
- I want to host a Pop-Up!
Coming soon: Cooking Club
A social-based, food-centric group experience for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) to further explore culinary topics and skills.
2. Culinary Wellness
A collection of culinary classes with specific targeted goals in mind
- Kitchen Mission
Learn more below.
A skill-building and wellness hybrid course for foster care youth to prepare them for adulthood by pairing basic cooking skills with therapeutic coping techniques. This course is led by a licensed social worker with trauma-informed specialty skills and experience working with children in foster care.
This culinary therapy group courses specifically tailored to skills and lifestyle stress needs such as: mindfulness, communication, connectedness, and healthy habits. Led by a licensed social worker with military and trauma-informed experience, the groups will learn techniques in a familiar setting to reduce stigma and improve intermittent practice in their home environment.
The goal of Culinary Connections is to teach culinary skills, nutritional literacy and overall wellness interventions that extend far beyond the classroom, leading to greater independence and quality of life for individuals with different abilities. From our flagship kitchen in the heart of Virginia Beach to our mobile instructional programming integrated inside the community, Culinary Connections is a valuable resource for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities (IDD), mental health challenges, substance use disorders, foster care and military connected groups.
Thank you to our sponsors!
Our services rely on the funds and partnerships from community organizations and supporters. We’d like to acknowledge the following for their generous support.
- New Hanover Community Endowment
- NC Cooperative Extension
- ECU Health
- Chartway Promise Foundation
- Jennifer Lynn Gray Fund of the Hampton Roads Community Foundation
Here’s what people are saying…
Be a part of our story.