2015 Action Project – Cooking Up Cultures


Casey Smith, Mohamed Ismail, Ola Ali

The Challenge

Cooking Up Arabic is a vital but missing piece of Cooking Up Cultures programming. Egypt is the leading Arabic speaking country with the strongest positive economic ties to the United States. Egypt needs to be represented in the Cooking Up Arabic programming to help demystify and personify one of the most important Arabic speaking cultures. Likewise, the English language and American culture needs to be showcased in Egypt as a positive relationship to foster U.S. - Egypt relations.

Project Overview

Cooking Up Cultures (CUC) is a non-profit organization established in 2010 which provides dynamic cooking  experiences that explore languages and cultures for those with an international curiosity. The copyrighted  method of CUC blends language + cooking + culture all in one experience, ensuring participants are better  neighbors than before. The goal of CUC is to reduce the cultural barriers that exist between communities and  we believe using food as the universal expression of a culture is the way to accomplish this goal. Languages  currently offered by CUC include: English, Spanish, French and Chinese (Mandarin). It is with high priority  that Cooking Up Arabic launch out of the CUC programming. The implementation of this mission will occur in  Egypt and the U.S. through these programs:

1) In-Person classes. Arabic & English classes are taught at contracted facilities like school cafeterias,  churches and Ramadam tents. The latter are facilitated as cooking dinner parties for up to  10 friends.

2) Curricula licenses. Cooking Up Arabic (CUA) and Cooking Up English (CUE) curricula will be  available to schools, nonprofits and faith groups looking to add hands-on activities for language  programs already operating in their facilities. This curricula is offered to accommodate all language  proficiency levels in one class.

3) Online lessons. Our curricula is adapted for in home use on iOS, Windows and Android devices.  Self-pace features include: proficiency level options (beginner, intermediate and advanced), audio  and video content. Ideal for families, travelers, date nights, book clubs and foodies.

Project Goals

By September 2016, conservatively:

In-Person Classes

Reach 120 people through Cookovers in the U.S. and Egypt and 46 people through the contracted classes.

Curricula Licenses

Provide Cooking Up English licenses to 2 Egyptian schools, nonprofits or faith groups and Cooking Up Arabic  licenses to 2 schools, nonprofits and faith groups in the U.S.

Online Lessons

Reach 500 users of Cooking Up Arabic online lessons.

Population Served

In-Person Classes. Contracted classes are paid for by schools who recruit participants such as families,  parents, and youth aged 9-16 years old to participate. Cookover participants are provided to individuals with  a curiosity in international matters, often self-described as “global citizens”. Cookover hosts pay for these  experiences.

Curricula Licenses. Cooking Up English and Cooking Up Arabic curricula licenses are provided to schools,  faith groups and non-profits at a low cost that already deliver language acquisition programming in some  capacity and are looking to incorporate hands-on activities to strengthen the language retention of their  students.

Online Lessons. The users of the online lessons are: foodies, home cooks, home-school families, travelers,  aspiring travelers, language students, and social groups. Online lessons will be accessible as subscription or  pay-as-you-go fee structures.

Project Milestones

  • Launch first Online Cooking Up Arabic lesson: Fattah & Baladi
  • Deliver first Cooking Up Arabic Cookover
  • Beta test of all CUC Online Lessons
  • Conduct Cooking Up Arabic and Cooking Up English contracted classes with Austin Independent School District
  • Document and film the Cookover Tour for the official launch of CUC Online Lessons • Official launch of all CUC Online Lessons
  • Provide Cooking Up English [American] license to Al Azhar, in Egypt, and train instructors • Offer Cooking Up English [American] curricula license to other Egyptian schools, nonprofits and faith groups

Expected Outcome

Historical data of CUC suggests participants in all programming will experience an improved understanding  of the Egyptian and American cultures and increased confidence speaking the respective languages. We  believe by cooking culturally significant recipes together and explaining why a particular recipe is important,  we can create a personal connection for individuals who may previously have felt fear or anxiety related to  that culture.

How the Project Contributes to the Foundation Mission

CUC programming supports this mission of creating dialogue between the east and the west both directly  and indirectly. Launching Cooking Up Arabic in the U.S. and expanding Cooking Up English to Egypt directly  impacts the potential for future dialogue through teaching tangible language skills and cultural context to  Americans and Egyptians. We also facilitate indirect dialogue by reaching participants who perhaps are more  interested in learning about the food than they are learning about the culture or language. This indirect impact  is long term and manifests over a period of time, so that at the next encounter of someone who speaks  English or Arabic, participants have a basic framework to begin a conversation.