Hi, my name is Layla Sabourian Tarwé and I am the founder of Chef Koochooloo. I often get asked how I came up with the idea for Chef Koochooloo, and, truth be told, it wasn’t due to a sudden epiphany that the World needed an app that would guide families to cook together. In fact, it was more of a gradual collection of events and realizations that led us to our journey.
Chef Koochooloo was first and foremost inspired by my daughter Delarai. As a working Mom in high-tech, I often struggled with three things:
- Finding time for fun quality time with my family
- Providing a healthy home cooked meal every night
- Ensuring my daughter is on the right education path
Talking with other parents, I knew I was not alone. In fact, the average parent in the US has less than 36 minutes per day to spend time with their child; as a result, cooking often gets outsourced, contributing to the increasing rise in child obesity and diabetes.
As a country, we are also experiencing a major educational crisis. According to the National Education Assessment, less than one-third of fourth, eighth and twelfth graders are proficient in their math, science or geography scores.
I then faced a life-threatening situation that put me in the hospital. Faced with a surgery that had a 50% success rate, the doctors suggested that I make all necessary arrangements and have everything in order. As a wife and mother, the first thing that came to my mind was “What is my husband going to eat?” After moving to the US, he had developed issues with dairy and gluten products, so I had been customizing special recipes for him. My second thought was “How difficult will this situation be for my daughter?” She would never get to know me, never learn about our family history and culture, and she would probably end up watching TV while my husband tried to figure out his way in the kitchen.
In fact, I had overheard my daughter tell her friends that she was from the United Kingdom, and everyone in that country spoke French. (This was because many of our French speaking family members and friends and had moved there, and every time we would go to London we would speak French.) What was shocking to me was that the mother of the child she was telling this to actually believed her, and said “Oh wow I did not know the official language in the UK was French!” Another incident that had bothered me was that while waiting to pick up my daughter from Pre-school, I heard one Mom tell another, “Did you see the African child that just enrolled in our school?” (This was a preschool in a prominent Palo Alto neighborhood). I then heard the Mom respond, “Yes, I was wondering how to best explain why this child looks black.”
I realized that despite the fact that globalization had taken over and we lived in such a diverse environment, so many parents still needed assistance in helping their children understand and appreciate the world in a better way.
I was determined to leave this world a better place, not only for my daughter, but also for all the children in the world. So I thought, as part of ‘my arrangements,’ I would create a series of delicious, healthy, international recipes, and include fun facts and issues that were affecting kids in need from each country. This way, I would teach my daughter about that country in a fun, responsible, and delicious way.
Luckily, I made it through surgery successfully and came home to recover. I began cooking more often with my daughter, trying all of the recipes I had jotted down, and I was able to convert our picky eater into an adventurous, healthy foodie. My daughter loved these cooking sessions so much that she kept inviting her friends over and talking about it at her school. Eventually her teacher invited us to come and teach a class in her classroom. Before we knew it, the word got out and we got requests from other schools.
By talking to my daughter and her friends about worldwide issues affecting children everywhere, I saw immediate positive results and realized how easy it was to raise compassionate global citizens.
One of my good friends at work, Milos Macura, offered to help code the app, and with the help of teachers and educators, the Chef Koochooloo recipes and lessons evolved into a dynamic curriculum enriched by math, geography, and science, focusing on nutritional education, healthy life choices, social responsibility, and culinary adventures.
Our vision to transform children’s lives for the better has already begun to take shape. Since our ideation in April 2014, we have received wonderful recipe contributions from over 50+ engaged community members, developed an iPad prototype, and launched our curriculum with more than 500 kids. The results have been phenomenal.
In 2015, our goal is to have a presence in at least 10 bay area schools, finish the development of our MBP and launch it to the App store,
Together, we can make the world a more delicious place, one recipe at a time.