The Cooking Show


The goal of the cooking show is to motivate students to gain mastery of the preparation of a specific recipe by demonstrating the process in detail on video. This also involves learning basic information about the recipe- such as the nutritional benefits and cuisine of origin.

A secondary goal is teach students public speaking and video production skills.


With the rise of the Food Network, the cooking show format is universally familiar and naturally engaging. Models exist in the real-world that we can research and learn from.

There is also a need for innovation in the cooking show space to benefit community health. There aren’t any cooking shows driven by the Urban Nutrition Initiative’s Think AHEAD (affordable, healthy, easy, accessible, delicious) that’s created and produced by young people living in the community of the target audience.


Any students being filmed need to have their parents sign a photo release waiver, providing written permission to publish the cooking show on the internet. This document explains the educational purpose of the project. Students who don’t get permission can still participate, they just need roles behind the camera.

The supply needs for a cooking show are very flexible, depending on what’s easily available. The one required piece of equipment is a video camera of some kind. Just about any smart phone is sufficient to get started.

A computer with video editing software installed is highly recommended. Just about any school will have this available, as would any volunteer with a laptop with Windows (Movie Maker) or Mac (iMovie). Internet access is also recommended for recipe research and video publishing. If a computer is not available, it will be impossible to edit the filmed footage to create a multi-shot video. The only option is to create 1-shot videos, meaning the camera will be constantly rolling. This is doable, but you will want to limit the scope of your videos to a minute or less.

Whatever cooking supplies you have on hand or are able to get, as well as the availability of ingredients, will determine the recipes featured in the cooking show. Here are the basic supplies we recommend. Limited resources requires creative thinking and problem-solving. With just 2 sugar packets, a plastic cup, a lime, some water you can make a flavored water. What happens when you first mush the zest of the lime with the sugar in a mortar and pestle first? How about when you add a fresh basil leaf to the mixture? It’s certainly possible to create engaging recipes with few resources.

Group Size (students):

We recommend starting a cooking show project with a small group of young people, anywhere between 4-12 students total. If there’s a larger group of students who want to participate, we suggest producing multiple segments simultaneously, if the space and supplies are available. Another option is to increase the sophistication of the production, creating roles for lighting, sound, etc. This depends on volunteer capacity.

The cooking show project has been implemented with great success across grades and class sizes, but interestingly worked particularly well with two groups- behavioral/emotional support classes and life skills classes. One reason is logistics, these are smaller classes with more adult supervision. Another reason is the hands-on, role based design of the cooking show is a highly tactile with a quick feedback loop. We are constantly reminded of our focus and behavior by the camera, it provides a concrete focus. Students are given real responsibility, the tools to succeed, and a consistent support system.

Group Size (volunteers):

A 1:2 ratio of older folk to youth is recommended. This is an opportune project for college and graduate students interested in video production, or professional volunteers. It’s especially strategic for the cooking show project given these folks’ technical expertise as well as access to more advanced equipment. At Penn students regularly borrow high quality cameras and microphones from the library which we bring into the classroom.


Like all Rebel Gardeners projects, participating students are selected through an application and interview, or by the discretion of the principal or partner teacher.

The first stage in the cooking show is pre-production, which is essentially a dress rehearsal for the filmed shoot. The roles for pre-production are the chef (1-10 students), the cameraperson (1-2 students), and the director (1-2 student). The chefs are responsible for dividing the recipe in component parts to be filmed, and writing and memorizing their parts of the recipe prep. The cameraperson is responsible for holding the camera steady and keeping the action in frame. The director is responsible for ensuring the chef and cameraperson are prepared for the production. The roles stay consistent in pre-production and production.

In post-production the video is edited and the recipe for the next show is researched and developed. To start, it’s simplest to edit all the footage on one computer, which means only 1-2 students can participate in the editor role. These students are paired with a teacher or volunteer with knowledge of the computer software, and together this group edits the cooking show. The rest of the students first brainstorm and decide upon the recipe for next week (which will depend on logistical limitations), and then split into two groups to research- one focusing on the nutritional benefits of the ingredients in the recipe and the other focusing on the cuisine of origin, with facts about the history and environment of the place. These form the basis of the script for the next episode.