About Us

Sprouts empowers youth from all backgrounds to live healthier lives through 3 programs:
1) Sprouts’ CIT program: a 6-month culinary, vocational training program for at-risk youth ages 16-24 where interns develop the essential skills needed to secure and maintain a job in the modern restaurant industry.
2) In-restaurant cooking classes and camps: subsidized and free classes for diverse children, 7-12, in the Bay Area, NYC, and Paris. 
3) After school cooking classes: Subsidized classes at Bay Area public and Title 1 elementary schools that teach nutritional basics, sugar awareness, and cooking skills.
In 2006, Sprouts was launched in the Bay Area with the mission to teach children from all socioeconomic, physical and mental health backgrounds the importance of healthy, nutritional foods through hands-on cooking with REAL chefs with REAL ingredients in REAL restaurants. In 2009, it was formally converted into an official 501c3, thanks to the encouragement of Alice Waters, a member of Sprouts’ advisory board. Since then, Sprouts has expanded to inspire and empower youth in New York City and Paris. 

OUR STORY

Growing up, my dad taught me that food could heal. My mother showed me that food had soul. For me, food was FUN – a social, creative experience.

– Karen Rogers

The stats confirm what we see every day on the streets: childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. We have all heard this before: the extra pounds weighing down our youth are leading to health, social and psychological issues.
Growing up, my father told me countless stories of his patients that suffered from poor eating habits. He taught me that food could heal. My mom taught me that food had soul. Raised on a farm, she ground wheat to make us bread and jammed fruits from her garden.
For me, food was FUN. In preschool, I planted a pumpkin patch. In elementary school, I baked home-made pies with friends. In high school, I hosted ‘rainbow’ dinners with colorful produce. Cooking with real foods was a social, creative experience.
In college, however, I realized that the majority of us never learned HOW to eat well, or WHY real food is so important. Cooking was intimidating. And I wanted to change that.
So I am.
One kid at a time, class by class, I am thrilled to be bringing the health, soul, and FUN back in good food.
Background

OUR MISSION

Since 2006, Sprouts has been breathing the fun back into good food! We bring together Bay Area youth from all backgrounds so that they might cook with real chefs right inside real restaurants using real ingredients. Here at Sprouts, we are showing our youth, hands-on, what real food is about. We are empowering them to lead healthier lives.

– Karen Rogers

Here at Sprouts, we strive to teach children, hands-on, that healthy, nutritional eating is fun by involving them in the entire process – from planting the seed and harvesting, to cooking, eating (and cleaning!) with real chefs. All of our classes are below-market-rate so that youth from all health, financial and social backgrounds can participate. Additional subsidies and scholarships are provided for those in need.
We are thrilled to have the support of Alice Waters and Jamie Oliver on our board. We are so grateful for the support of our 100+ community partners, including Girls Inc and the Unified School Districts in NYC, Oakland, SF and Berkeley.
We are proud to have our own organic garden and outdoor kitchen where the children harvest and cook with produce that they planted themselves. We even grocery shop with the children to teach them about budgeting and reading labels. We keep cooking REAL — the children cook, side-by-side, with real chefs from restaurants like Chez Panisse and Pizzaiolo, Tartine, and Boulevard. The kids consider these chefs culinary heroes; and what better role model than someone who believes so strongly in good food that they have dedicated their lives to it.

OUR TEAM

Karen Rogers
Founder and Director

Favorite Foods: I love fresh fruits and vegetables. Pickled, sautéed, boiled, chopped, raw, cooked —there is no form that I don’t enjoy. And anything with a Moroccan twist.

Evan Hazelett
Program Manager

Favorite Foods: When I’m not working to change the food system, I spend my time wandering barefoot in Golden Gate Park, trying to hike all the trails, playing soccer, writing music and singing, attending film screenings and story events, hosting potlucks, and scouring the streets for tacos and mezcal cocktails. I am obsessed with food, so asking me about my favorite food is akin to asking the Cookie Monster what his favorite cookie is. That said, in terms of sheer volume and general desire, it’d have to be Mexican food— specifically, al pastor tacos.

Katie Doherty
Operations Manager

Favorite Foods: Farming is what brought me to California, and I still lend a hand on my friend’s farm in Petaluma when I can. Absolutely nothing beats a meal that I’ve harvested and cooked with the people I love. Rich butternut squash soup, salsa made with a rainbow of heirlooms, pesto on fresh sunny side eggs, and vibrant beet salad are definitely some of my favorites.

Sasha Strohkendl
Team Manager

Favorite Foods: I love to honor the seasons and keep things fresh! Most days you’ll find me enjoying a big green salad with endless toppings: carrot ribbons, toasted seeds, crunchy pickles, etc. and a slice of my homemade sprouted wheat sourdough!

Sophia Riemer
After School Manager

Favorite Foods: Foods that remind me of my family like my mother’s cajun shrimp, my dad’s spaghetti and meatballs, and my grandmother’s matzo ball soup.

Caitlin Fogarty
AmeriCorps VISTA Program and Event Manager

Favorite Food: I love vegetable lasagna! Weirdly, I like it as cold leftovers the day after its made when all the flavors have bound and oozed together. Make it with goat cheese, that’s even better!

Kevin Longa
Documentary Film Producer

Favorite Foods: Anything that gets me out of my comfort zone – from live shrimp in Copenhagen to balut in the Philippines. Plus, you can never go wrong with Thai.

Holden Bussey
Culinary Instructor

Favorite Foods: Nothing compares to food that you’ve grown yourself, with seasonality dictating the menu! From oysters to vegetables, it’s important to understand and appreciate the land and the people that produce what we eat. My favorite dining experiences are those that are shared, with food serving as a means of bringing people together!

Katie Bem
Website Maintenance Intern

Favorite Foods: I am all about balance! As a baker, I will always argue that no meal is complete without a little bit of dessert – coffee cake, anyone!? But, you can always find me chopping up whatever fresh produce is in season, from squash to corn, tomatoes to swiss chard, I just can’t get enough. And if possible, all of those beautiful veggies will be accompanied by a warm, cheesy bowl of baked ziti!

Katarina Krska
Accounting Intern

Favorite foods: From European pastries to dishes from my home country like kale and potato soup, fruit filled dumplings or freshly baked bread… the list of my favorites is very long. Good thing cooking and baking is a passion of mine. But if I had to pick just one food, then raspberries – straight from the garden. Or better yet – picked up while hiking in the mountains!

Laura Bowen
Bookkeeper
Favorite Foods: If I was really forced to choose a favorite cuisine, I have to go with Thai food. Thai food has beautiful colors, scents, and tastes. And who doesn’t love Thai tea? Thai food ties with lemons. Lemons are universal. They make great desserts, great on proteins, great in water, basically, they are wonderful in everything!
Kris Rollert
Web Developer

Favorite Foods: My favorite food is these buttered carrots my mom makes. She learned how to make them from my great grandmother, and has been making them for me since I was a kid.

Sally Liang
Web Maintenance Intern

Favorite Foods: I love eating honey walnut prawns for all occasions. The fried shrimp in a creamy sauce accompanied by glazed walnuts complements each other really well. Whether you need a late night snack or a quick dish to go with your rice, I highly recommend this!

OUR SUMMER TEAM

Camille Planchin
Summer Operations Intern

Favorite Foods: Since I was young I have always absolutely LOVED pastry! One of my favorites is the “Paris Brest”, a typical French pastry. You have to taste it if you haven’t already done so!

Jade Wong
Representative Intern

Favorite Foods: I am a sucker for anything with miso or umami flavors. I’m a huge fan of Japanese dishes that definitely highlight both flavors. Some of my favorites are shoyu ramen and takoyaki!

Ashley Tang
Program Manager’s Assistant

Favorite Foods: There is nothing I love more than fruit. Whether I am eating an apple (from the bottom up), stuffing my face with berries, or peeling a clementine, I probably have a smile on my face! Prepare the fruit in any way and I will gladly eat it!

Sam Myatt
Team Manager’s Assistant

Favorite Foods: I absolutely love “dim sum”, which is a type of Chinese cuisine that usually consists of different kinds of dumplings, noodles, and meat, served in small portions (like tapas). My dad was born and raised in Hong Kong, so I used to eat this all the time as a kid–it’s is serious comfort food for me. But if I had to eat one thing for the rest of my life it would be papaya, hands down.  

Favorite Foods: When I’m not wandering the bookstores or city streets of Taipei, I’m usually in my dorm’s kitchen. I buy meats and vegetables from a traditional market, then make up my own recipes on the spot. Here’s something I made on a sunlit Tuesday morning: sauteed aromatic tofu!

Alysa Case
Camp Director’s Assistant

Favorite Foods: After escaping the dreary student meal plan of freshman year, my passion for cooking took off. Whether it be baking or meal preparation as a break from homework or browsing the internet for inspiration, the culinary world has become intertwined within my daily life. In my free time I turn to yelp in search of new restaurants to try and Pinterest to admire creative food presentation. However, in terms of actual food, my favorites would have to be plump blueberries bursting with flavor along with other seasonal produce, fresh prosciutto and mozzarella, and New Haven’s nationally ranked pizza (not far from my home town!).

Julia Scheinman
Camp Director’s Assistant

Favorite Foods: I love dessert, especially anything and everything with chocolate; I am a total chocaholic! My favorite food outside of dessert is definitely eggplant parmesan. But the food I have always loved the most (and miss the most now) is noodle pudding, a food I grew up having at Jewish holidays.

Rachel Castellino
Summer Marketing Intern

Favorite Foods: If given the option, I would eat noodles for every single meal every single day. Chow mein, spaghetti, jap-che, vermicelli- literally, anything and everything that falls under the noodle category. I also love seafood, especially in the Asian cuisines!

OUR CULINARY HERO

Jamie Oliver

English chef & restaurateur known for his television shows, cookbooks and global campaign for better food education.

Jamie-Oliver-at-Chatelaine

SPROUTS HONORARY ADVISOR

Alice Waters

Chez Panisse Foundation and owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant, founder of The Edible Schoolyard

OUR BOARD OF ADVISORS

Andrew Greene
Executive Chef of Troya
Jessica Sullivan
Executive Pastry Chef of Delfina
Chef Payton Paleaz
of Food Network and Chez Pay Catering
Matt Paine
Executive Chef of Wingtip
Ryan Cole
of Stones’ Throw
Charlie Hallowell
Owner of Pizzaiolo, Penrose, Chef at Chez Panisse
Lendri Purcell
Director of Jonas Family Fund
Jerry Ostrander
Financial Advisor of Edward Jones
Ben Eichorn
Edible Schoolyard and Grow Your Own Lunch
Ryan Lowther
Lawyer at Farrela Braun + Martel Law Firm
Nick Heustis
Regional Marketing Director of Whole Foods Market
Marie Banis
Owner of Berkeley Certified Kitchens
Georgia Zhang
Data Analyst at LinkedIn
Maricel Mojares- Moore
 

WHAT OTHERS SAY

  • “Sprouts’ coaching skills and outreach has significantly increased the employment and job retention rate of our students.”

    Life Learning Academy
  • “My 9 year-old daughter has participated in several sprouts club sessions and a full week of camp last summer. She loved her experience and it has been a catalyst for her to take a more and more active role in the kitchen at home!”

    Pamela
    Parent of aspiring Sprouts Chef
  • Giant thanks to you and your amazing team there at Sprouts. Bluma has not stopped raving about Sprouts since she came home. We feel very lucky that she got to spend the week learning with you all. And hope that she will have many more experiences with you all in the future. Thanks again.

    Michael
    A Sprouts parent
  • It’s a really fun experience when you have the power to do your own thing. After camp I went home and made my own salad– I liked the one that Chef Russell made at La Fitte did and so I made the green bean salad too.

    Natalya Mril, 9
  • Sprouts’ programs have a huge sense of reality because you really cook in restaurants hands-on with chefs. I feel really good about it because I know the ingredients I am using are a good quality. The slogan: ‘Learning what good food is about’ is really true.

    Julia Sweeney, 13
  • Gianna really enjoyed Sprouts this summer. I think it was fun for her to be in San Francisco and explore new neighborhoods and kitchens. When we drove home on Friday evening she insisted I pass by Andronico’s and buy a whole chicken…which she parted out beautifully the following evening for dinner! I have a real sous chef at home now! Thanks for a great experience.

    Andrea
    An appreciative Sprouts mom
  • Thank you so much to you and your team! Pria returned home from camp each night Inspired. She’s been cooking ever since, and teaching me as well! Last night she made fresh pasta with feta and basil. No doubt she will want to return next year. Thank you again for a top-notch, creative, and well-run camp.

    Rebecca
    An appreciative Sprouts mom
  • Sprouts is my favorite program ever because it combines all of my love of food and cooking with all my ideals about how things should be prepared. At Sprouts, you not only learn new techniques and recipes but you get the opportunity to practice them with the chefs who are teaching you!

    Julia
    An aspiring chef at Sprouts
  • We loved going to Lasalle, France with Sprouts and living with local people, going to school with kids our age, eating their local food and learning about their culture.

    The Rau Family
  • Sprouts is a unique cooking club for kids, which offers a first-class educational opportunity for culinary-minded children, who get to learn from some of the Bay Area’s best chefs–and be inspired by them. It’s like the Harvard of kids cooking clubs–a premier educational after-school learning opportunity that will develop the palettes and culinary minds of the lucky kids who attend.

    Amy Murray
    Owner and Head Chef, Venus Restaurant and Revival Restaurant
  • I love Sprouts because you are treated like any other chef in the kitchen, and you learn so many different and amazing skills. There are way too many favorite memories but one of the best was going on the culinary immersion to France in 2009. My favorite classes are the baking and dessert ones but the others are just as much fun too. Sprouts is amazing and I will never forget the experiences that I had with all the awesome chefs!!!

    Madeline
    An aspiring chef at Sprouts
  • I’ve been cooking since I was 7 or 8, but I’m learning more from one week with these chefs than all those years with my family.

    Elazar Sontag
    13, an aspiring chef at Sprouts
  • He really enjoys sharing stories about his experience with family and friends.  After the last day of his week 8 class, he wanted to stay in the city with me to have dinner to just chat about food.  I splurged and took him to Boulevard knowing that he had a class there earlier in the Spring.  We were having a great time and getting ready to head out after dinner when the server came to me holding the chef’s iPhone.  She asked if I recognized someone in the picture as she showed me a picture the chef had taken of Clark that weekend in the Spring.  Clark thought that was just the coolest thing.  After that fun conversation, the server took Clark back to watch the line cook.  It really was a great day.

    Vince Gamick
    Parent of aspiring Sprouts chef
  • Sprouts stands out for allowing children into the kitchens of working, professional chefs.

    The New York Times
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