Photo: Culination

If you’ve ever tried to whip up an elaborate Julia Child recipe for 14 dinner guests only to wind up with a deflated pile of foul-smelling gunk in a casserole dish (just me?), then we’ve got some good news for you: Cooking might be getting a whole lot easier thanks to a new culinary learning site. It’s called Culination, and it’s seeking to reinvent the way Americans cook.

What’s the Deal?

Photo: Culination

Culination, which launched an Indiegogo campaign this morning, plans to bring expert food and beverage education and instruction to home kitchens with a simple-to-use website. The company is pairing up with diverse experts in the fields of food, beverage, and nutrition to create an extensive library of interactive cooking lessons designed to empower would-be chefs to explore healthy, sustainable cooking in the comfort of their own homes. While some content will eventually be placed behind a pay wall, cooking technique instruction will always remain free.

The site plans to curate lessons for a variety of skill and finance levels, with a focus on using sustainably grown whole foods. Each lesson functions as a “one-stop shop” for any and all information a person might need for a given recipe, compiling cooking techniques, ingredient substitutions, and pre-set timers into one window so cooks never have to leave the page. The first 100 lessons will likely be available to users in July of this year.

Eventually, Culination’s founders hope to integrate voice activation into every lesson. Let’s say a user is following along with a casserole recipe, and the chef tells them to dice a zucchini. If the user isn’t sure what “dicing” means, they can say “show technique” to their laptop, smartphone, or tablet, and a video will appear to explain the how-to’s of dicing. After that, the user says “return,” and simply picks up where they left off in the recipe instructions. The idea is to make the cooking process as seamless and unintimidating as possible (we’re also betting it will spare a lot of cookbooks and keyboards from sticky fingers).

Culination also plans to leverage the power of crowd-sourcing. While the first 100 multimedia lessons will be developed in-house, the team at Culination plans to put together future lessons based on user demand. Users — dubbed “@Culinators” — can make direct requests (diabetic-friendly dinners? Gluten-free desserts? De-boning a fish? The perfect summertime mojito?) via the site’s interactive community. The most voted-upon topics will be turned into lessons from the site’s food and beverage experts.

Eventually, @Culinators will be able to create their own profiles, track what they’ve learned, earn badges, and share their favorite recipes with others. The idea, says CEO Caen Contee, is “for [@Culinators] to feel like they can be entrepreneurial — to use their own kitchen as a place to create.”

Why It Matters

In Culination’s video on Indiegogo (above), Contee cites two striking statistics: One in five Americans eats most of their meals in the car, and most Americans think doing their taxes is easier than maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In short, most of us know that eating healthy food is important — but putting this into practice can be tough, particularly given the fast pace of American life today.

By providing the support and instruction for people to feel comfortable cooking their own healthy recipes, Contee hopes Culination will empower Americans to return to their kitchens and start making their own nutritious, sustainable food. It’s not just about healthy eating, either — regularly sitting down for a meal with family or friends has been shown to cultivate human connection, increase happiness, and alleviate depression Don't hide your happiness! Positive emotion dissociation, social connectedness, and psychological functioning. Mauss,IB., Shallcross, AJ., Troy, AS., et al. University of Denver, Denver. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2011 Apr;100(4):738-48 .

Culination hopes to inspire these connections both at the table and online. “[We’re] creating a network of people in the food world [who can] express themselves through stories and education,” says Contee. As the founders stress over and over again, it’s time to turn the kitchen into a place of inspiration, not intimidation.

Do you think Culination can help change the way Americans relate to their kitchens? Share your thoughts in the comments below or get in touch with the author on Twitter @lauranewc.

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