BLSA Podcast: Chef Shai Mandel – Cooking as a way to express yourself


“The family was an art … and the dinner table was the place it found expression.”

  • Don DeLillo, Underworld

How do we mark holidays? How do we welcome someone to the neighbourhood? How do we appreciate loved ones? How do we comfort ourselves in tough times? The answer to so many of our questions about how to be human is, of course, food.

Whatever the culture or era, humans gather, cook and share food as a foundational act of being. It is one of the few forces in life that touches nearly ever aspect of our wellness. Its warmth and smell and taste and touch move our emotions while its nutrients fuel our bodies and minds. It is social connection. It is cultural sharing. It is nature engagement. It is artistic inspiration. We gather around platters, tables and fires to be together, wherever and whoever we are.

So why don’t we teach our children more about food? And how can we do better in the future?

This episode’s guest has some answers for us.

Chef Shai Mandel is a Toronto-born chef, Ontario certified teacher and entrepreneur. Building on services provided since 2015, Chef Shai founded the Culinary Education company Rooks to Cooks in 2017, and has been developing its educational programming to meet the evolving needs of schools and students ever since.

The fun, inviting and intensive programs offered by Rooks to Cooks began with in-home private lessons and have now expanded to include children’s cooking day camps in the summer, in-home private classes, after school programs, and school workshops. We’re excited to learn from Chef Shai about her experiences as an education entrepreneur, and especially about how culinary education can impact student health, motivation and success outcomes in later life .

If you’d like to learn more about some of the specific ideas discussed in this episode, you can use the links below as a starting point:




Canada Food Guide

UWaterloo Study: School Food Programs

Flow Theory

Kyushoku: Japanese school lunches

Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table

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