As the old maxim goes, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
Now, a new literacy program in Philadelphia hopes this proves true not just for men, but for women and kids, too. And instead of romantic love, they’re looking to foster a love of reading.
In the City of Brotherly Love, more than half a million adults are illiterate or low-literate — that’s more than half of the adult population of the city. So the Free Library of Philadelphia is partnering with local Iron Chef alums Jose Garces and Marc Vetri to launch a non-traditional, cooking-based literacy program. The Culinary Literacy Center opened June 2, offering cooking and literacy classes to adults, kids, teenagers, and ESL students of all ages.
“The beauty of culinary literacy is that it’s basic literacy skills — math and science — and you get to make something. That tactile part of when you’re learning something is so important,” Siobhan Reardon, the president of the Free Library of Philadelphia told Francis Hilario of the Philadelphia Business Journal. “For us, the role of the library is about the grand experiment of bringing people to literacy, and that’s what we’re doing here.”
Garces, an Ecuadorian-American chef, restaurant owner, and of course, Iron Chef winner, has been helping immigrants for years through his Garces Foundation. He sees this venture as aligning with his foundation’s mission of helping kids and teaching people to read by following and writing recipes.
The Parkway Central Library in Philadelphia is in the middle of a major renovation that included adding the Culinary Literacy Center, with its three ovens, walk-in refrigerator and 16 burners. Currently, the library is working with Garces and Ventri to get a school curriculum developed for the fall.
With any luck, after their cooking classes, the new students will be inspired to take home a few books from the library.