Common Threads Teaches Kids about Cooking Around the World

For Moms, Healthy, Heroes, Recipes
on July 31, 2010
Ellen Kanner

"Our world is a quilt; its people, the fabric—all joined together by common threads, food, family, music and art.”—Chef Art Smith, Founder, Common Threads

Common Threads, a national nonprofit organization, teaches kids about everything from table manners to tabbouleh, by helping them make and eat food from around the world. Oprah Winfrey’s chef Art Smith launched the Chicago-based Common Threads in 2003 with its motto, “One kid + one kitchen = one world discovered.”

Common Threads operates 14 classes in Chicago, and the 12-week program has recently expanded to Los Angeles and Miami. During each class, students don chef hats and aprons and make an entire meal, usually an entrée and two side dishes, in 90 minutes. Along the way they learn about nutrition and global awareness. Common Threads has served nearly 1,000 kids ages 8 to 12, and according to the organization’s website (, 82 percent of Common Threads students cut down on junk food and 96 percent become interested in cooking and eating healthier food.

And then there’s the stuff you can’t measure—better behavior and greater self-esteem.

“I see such a difference, not only in the way they’re cooking, but in how passionate and excited they are,” says Chef Michelle Bernstein, who runs the program in Miami. Anedriana Franck and Roudy Francois are among the most recent batch of students to participate in Miami’s Common Threads program. “I love to learn new things,” says Anedriana. That includes new foods—among them, her new favorite, sushi. “At first, I thought it was weird. Now I think it’s delicious.”

Having mastered the recipes in class, Roudy’s been making dishes from Japan, Thailand, Jamaica, India, Italy and the Middle East at home, but he’s still not sure what his favorite food is. “It’s all really good, you know?”

By Ellen Kanner, a food writer in Miami, Fla. Recipes used with permission from Eat the World, Good-for-You Food for Families by Allison Liefer and Kate Leahy (Common Threads, 2009)