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Therapist turned chef uses cooking as form of therapy for children

Chicago nonprofit uses cooking as form of children's therapy
Chicago nonprofit uses cooking as form of children's therapy 03:40

CHICAGO (CBS) – For this Foodie Friday, a look at a nonprofit using cooking as a form of children's therapy.

The Evolved Network was started by one therapist-turned-chef on a mission to serve the city. He spends his time teaching little kids how to cook as a means of healing – gaining attention from schools around the city.

Sebastian White wears many hats – chef, father, therapist, and most recently, he's added culinary educator to that list.

"You see, I have my box here that I'm taking for, for classes today, and our cooler making the best without a full space at the moment," he said.

He's prepping to run programming for his nonprofit, The Evolved Network.

"I have a dish prepared, a dish concept that we're going to create and remake from scratch with the kids," White said.

White taught two after-school classes - a small fraction since starting the nonprofit two years ago.

"The idea is not just like the tangible skills work that's happening. It's the within the intangible conversations from the side that I can't predict that I don't control," White said.

Between the veggies and saucepans, that's when the learning and the therapy happen.

"So, all of these lessons continue to happen, and I think the key is that the kids know how much I care," he said.

That's why he's headed from his children to ones who go to school on the other side of the city.

On a portable hot table right in their school cafeteria, students begin to pull together something different than their typical lunchtime fare.

Chef White and his kitchen aide, Isaiah, begin taking the students through their ingredients for the day.

Some things they recognize, and others, are not so easy to identify, but that's alright, Chef White is there to explain each step of the way…

"I'm trying to expand how their perception of choice," White said.

"So many of our kids think that their limitations outweigh their possibilities, and we're trying to squash that narrative through what they're eating, what those options look like, the creativity within it, and even if I have limited options, seeing the beauty in what I have."

In the past year, The Evolved Network has worked with nearly 500 kids - introducing them to new flavors, new skills, and new ways of seeing their world. 

"I want the kids that we see to be truly impacted by their work, and that takes time, and it takes building trust. It takes connection, and that's a piece, that's a huge piece of what we're trying to accomplish within our spaces," White said.

Chef White says The Evolved Network is focusing on financial stability, but their five-year plan hopefully has them expanding, possibly to other states. 

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