CULINARY LITERACY CENTER
Every bite of food we eat has a story. Here’s ours:

in June 2014, the Culinary Literacy Center is revolutionizing the way Philadelphians think about food, nutrition, and literacy. It aims to advance literacy in Philadelphia in a unique and innovative way—with a fork and spoon.

The Culinary Literacy Center is a commercial-grade kitchen that serves as a classroom and dining space for Philadelphians. We are more than just a cooking school. Teachers can bring students to our hands-on lab, where we teach math via measuring, reading via recipes, and science via seeing what pops out at the end of the cooking process. Chefs of all ages can experiment with new foods, new tools, and new ideas.

We offer a wide range of programs for eaters of all interests and tastes—our kitchen classes range from Meatless Mondays to Fish Without Fear, butchering demonstrations to salad how-tos. Free and low-cost public programs teach consumer skills that help parents make recipes fit their families’ needs and emphasize nutrition and health literacy to help with disease prevention. New on tap is Fare and Fête, an exclusive dining experience featuring cooking demonstrations from top Philly chefs, at which diners can sup on a three-course meal and sip the night away. All programs are designed to empower Philadelphians to take charge at the market and behind the stove!

Join us and build individual skills through interactive, community-focused workshops and demonstrations.
A Toolkit for Public Libraries

The Culinary Literacy Center at the Free Library of Philadelphia created this toolkit to help other public libraries replicate their work and launch programs of their own.

Download PDF version

FAQs
What is Culinary Literacy?

We define Culinary Literacy both as learning how to cook and learning literacy through cooking. There are multiple literacies we teach through the context of cooking: math, reading, writing, science, technology, health and nutrition, cultural, historical, and more. The possibilities are endless!

What types of programs do you offer?

  • We have programs for everyone:We offer programs to everyone from preschool students to senior citizens and everyone in between. We host classes that are open to the general public as well as those geared toward non-native English speakers, class trips from local schools, and adult literacy students. We even offer classes for families!
  • We cover many food interests: Our classes cover topics from knife skills to how to cook vegan soups and stews, from how to butcher an animal to demonstrations by some of Philadelphia’s best chefs! We have a series on cooking healthy meals with your family and a series that teaches about eating African Heritage foods.
  • We link our programming to the Library in innovative ways: Our programs tie in with other library initiatives like One Book, One Philadelphia, Author Events, and the exciting exhibits that the Free Library offers.
The Culinary Literacy Center has something for everyone!

How do I find your classes? How do I register for them?

You can find our classes right here at freelibrary.org/cook under Classes. Registration for the programs that are open to the public is at freelibrarycook.eventbrite.com. If you’d like to stay up to date on all of the happenings at the Culinary Literacy Center, you can subscribe to our monthly newsletter!

Are your programs free?

The majority of our programs are free! However, some of the classes do have a cost. You can find more details at freelibrary.org/cook. All programs that have a cost will be clearly indicated in their description under Classes.
PRESS
Anchors cook up a storm to ward off cancer
Philadelphia Daily News

FOX 29's Iain Page and Lucy Noland, and CBS3's Kathy Orr, cooked up a storm yesterday at the Free Library of Philadelphia's central branch for Cancer Treatment Centers of America's Thanksgiving Throwdown benefit.
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Phila. Free Library Holds Healthy Cooking Classes with Focus on Military Vets
CBS Philly

This morning the Free Library of Philadelphia, on Logan Circle, hosted its second monthly session of “Chow Down with Veterans” in its fourth-floor culinary literacy center kitchen. “This program focuses on eating a plant-based diet, and so what we are trying to teach them is how to cook delicious, nutritious, easy meals,” says culinary literacy specialist Liz Fitzgerald.
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Starting from scratch
Philadelphia Inquirer

The new commercial kitchen at the Free Library of Philadelphia is, by far, the most beautiful, tricked-out kitchen in which I've ever cooked.
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My Daughter’s Kitchen program keeps expanding
Philly.com

The mission has not changed as much as it has expanded since the lessons began with my own daughter in 2012: to convince not only students, but also parents and teachers - and our readers - that it's possible to cook fresh, healthy, really tasty meals without spending a lot. (This program is held at Parkway Central’s Culinary Literacy Center with students from the Russell Byers Charter School)
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Breakfast burrito a winner in school culinary test
Philly.com

Randolph's winning recipe, cooked up by a team of students at the Free Library's Culinary Literacy Center on Thursday morning, will appear on the menu at all 86 of the district's full-service cafeterias.
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GSK’s $5M to Philly groups helping kids eat better
Philly.com

The announcement was made at The Free Library's fourth-floor renovated meeting room, which has a wonderful view of the city skyline. Across the hall is a new teaching kitchen to provide space for Philly kids to learn how to cook, with the hope being they will dish up for themselves and families healthy meals to help cut into the city's obesity rate.
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Let a master teach you the tricks of friend chicken
Philly.com

Erwin will share the techniques required to execute her fried chicken, through the Culinary Literacy Center at the Central Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. Plenty of warning: Tuesday, June 2 at 6 p.m. at 1901 Vine Street. Theme is "Fried chicken in less than an hour."
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Improving literacy, one recipe at a time
Philly.com

In between chugging olive oil and cracking wise, he imparted knife skills, food-preparation techniques, and a killer panzanella recipe to a crowd that included restaurant workers with limited English, kids finding their way around the kitchen for the first time, and parents and grandparents navigating their families' nutritional needs. These are some of the demographics that will be served by the Free Library's new Culinary Literacy Center, which opened Monday with demonstrations from Vetri and fellow chef Jose Garces.
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PARTNERS

The foundation of the Culinary Literacy Center is built on strong partnerships and collaborations with other like-minded organizations, city agencies, library, staff, and individuals. Each partnership opportunity brings our unique strengths and experience together to create a robust program for our shared constituents. Without them, we would be hard pressed to reach the achievements we have over the past year. Read more about our partners below.

  • Vetri Community Partnership
  • Nationalities Service Center
  • Oldways
  • Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger
  • The Food Trust
  • Greensgrow
  • Honeypie Cooking
  • Drexel University’s Center for Hospitality and Sport Management
  • The Franklin Institute
  • Fair Food
  • Careers Through Culinary Arts Program
  • The Humane League
  • Penn State Extensions
  • Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative
  • School District of Philadelphia

The Free Library of Philadelphia’s Culinary Literacy Center is grateful to the following for their generous support of our programs:

  • The Claneil Foundation
  • Dry Family Charitable Foundation
  • GSK
  • The Leo & Peggy Pierce Family Foundation
  • The Walmart Foundation