Ballard Cooks teaches students the joy of cooking

We’ve all heard it before – eat your fruits and veggies, cook with fresh ingredients, stay away from fast-food and pre-packaged dinners and you’ll be a healthier person. Now Ballard High School has a new program to teach students the joy of cooking. The Ballard Cooks kitchen was launched just four weeks ago by Swedish’s Ballard Teen Health Center, The Ballard Farmer’s Market, and Seattle-King County Public Health.

Ryan Miller talks with students about the ingredients for the day.

Ryan Miller who is associated with Community Kitchens Northwest is the “instructor” although he doesn’t give much instruction. At the beginning of a recent class, he tells the group of teenagers, “Exercise your own creativity. Make this your project.”

Miller demonstrates the proper way to cut kale.

Miller is working with the students to increase the awareness of healthy foods, developing cooking skills from scratch and building community. “All the great things that come from cooking together,” Miller says. During the class, Miller teaches proper kitchen etiquette and techniques.

With quite a few ingredients in front of them, like kale, eggs, peppers, olives, strawberries and mangoes, to name a few, the students get into teams and conquer the task at hand. At the final session earlier this week, they made smoothies, deviled eggs, a salad and stir-fry.

Students boiling eggs for deviled eggs

“It’s really quite interesting. I’ve not gotten a whole lot of cooking experience, I mean, I’ve cooked with my family and stuff, but this is a whole lot different,” a freshman girl tells us who has been cooking since the first class. “Now I’m actually cooking things rather than helping with cooking. It always ends up being pretty tasty.”

Students cutting greens for salad and stir-fry

Diana Vergis Vinh is a public health nurse working with Teen Health Centers on obesity prevention. “What we really need to work on is behavioral norm changing and cultural transformation,” she says. “I think we’ve gotten to a point in our culture where a lot of people don’t know how to cook, they don’t enjoy it.” Vergis Vinh says this is an excellent resource for kids and will hopefully change some habits. “If we can get more kids excited and interested in cooking it’s going to result in a lot healthier life. Even if all they do is bake cakes instead of buying cakes, they’re going to be ahead.”

Students pouring their smoothie concoction.

In just four short weeks Miller has already seen a big change in the students who have been coming regularly. “They try new things, they’re confident in their cooking.” Miller says the Ballard Cooks kitchen will be back again next year, so will the students. “Oh yes, I’ll definitely be back,” the freshman says.

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great idea
great idea

how sad that this is news.

back in the day, we all took home economics, and even the boys learned to cook and sew.


you’ve just dated yourself.  thanks for taking me back.

i would argue that with disposable income, lack of time and cheap fast food, there’s now draw to want to learn how to cook.  i hope this program can grow and is expanded.


I got all the way through college never having cooked anything more complicated than Hamburger Helper.  I wish someone had somehow convinced me to do something like this!