Recipes 4 Learning Transition Program created for differently abled students
By Amy Nicole
The Baking Coach, owner and founder, Lisa Basini said inspiration to start the non-profit of her baking lesson company, Recipes 4 Learning, Inc., initially came from students who took her community classes and kept asking to work for her.
She said she would love to hire everybody; however, she recognized the possibility of that would not be realistic.
The second layer of inspiration came from Lisa’s own personal experience, having raised her own son who is on the spectrum. She always felt the fundamentals of working in a business environment were important.
Blending it all together, the concept for Recipes 4 Learning came to Lisa in 2019 and less than a year later she founded the non-profit organization in 2020.
“Food is a deep connection with the brain, and I really feel it is an under-utilized force that maybe we should utilize more,” Lisa said.
The Bellrose native who moved to the east end of Long Island in her 20’s where she has lived ever since, said it was at the age of 4 when she was first compelled to bake. She herself had a hard time decoding as a child and said she started applying her baking skills to reading and schoolwork which brought her from “zero to sixty.”
She credits most of her learning about baking to her aunt and grandmother, but since her mother wasn’t a baker, she said she learned at a young age how to make different things out of mostly cake mix. She fondly remembers a Better Homes & Gardens cookbook where she went through and made all the baking recipes in the book. With such an emotional connection to her baking, Lisa said baking has always been a coping method aside from being a learning tool through all phases of life.
“I learned to make cookies out of cake mix, muffins out of cake mix. I was an avid easy-bake oven kind of girl,” she said.
From growing up to marriage and becoming a mother, years had passed and one day Lisa said she realized something was still missing, so she enrolled in the Culinary Academy of Long Island and received her baking certification.
In addition to years of entrepreneurship with the Baking Coach, Lisa was a recipe writer for Domino’s sugar for approximately 9 years and credits that experience as an amazing time working for great people.
“This is definitely my calling. There is no doubt about that,” she said.
After spending years in Huntington with the Baking Coach since she opened her doors in 2005 and teaching privately in homes, Lisa recently relocated her business to the Bellport Outlets at 10 Farber Drive in Bellport, NY where Recipes 4 Learning is currently calling home until its own storefront opens next door in the coming weeks. With an exact grand opening date to be announced, Lisa has been busy bringing all the final pieces of the puzzle together.
While the Baking Coach kitchen will always be where the baking takes place, the rest of the learning will take place next door where students will learn how to sell products, develop customer service skills, and continue their math education by learning how to use a cash register and process transactions.
Recipes 4 Learning is an organization focused not only on teaching basic baking skills to young adults across the board, but Lisa said they also teach young differently abled adults how to manufacture and sell their own cookies-even creating their own original recipes; giving them the full spectrum of what it means to be in business.
This is where the Recipes 4 Learning Transition Program comes in and is designed for what Lisa calls her “Special Education Super Seniors” as a 2-year non-credited work transition program with a focus on developing careers in the food industry for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The tuition for the program can be paid for through a self-direction budget if the student has one or private pay.
For 4 hours per week students enrolled in the program come to Recipes 4 Learning and work on all facets of working a job in addition to baking skills. Whether it be just practicing saying good morning or when to stop saying good morning, Lisa said the goal is to work with the students to build confidence, socialization and to mentor the kids to find out what they really enjoy.
Thus far, the kids have been selling at craft fairs and Lisa said seeing them interact with the public and step out in such confidence has left her feeling blown away.
“They were selling, using their voices and getting people to come over to their booth,” she said with great pride.
As for the baking, the students learn how to read a recipe, use an oven and money management. The students are also taught about the importance of a team and how to work together as well as independently. Lisa said what brings everything together and really makes it work is the staff of the Baking Coach giving the program a balance of experience, compassion, and skills.
“Everybody has personal experience and attachment to the work,” she explained.
Now, as Lisa prepares to open the Recipes 4 Learning storefront she is currently looking for “shelf-stable” products from local businesses to sell in the store giving the opportunity to support other small businesses. In turn these local products will be what the student’s study, become experts on, and sell to the public.
Lisa has been actively reaching out to small businesses all over New York state to occupy shelves with their products in the store for the students to sell with just a small percentage of sales going back to support the program.
“We are willing to partner with as many organizations as possible,” she said.
While the Recipes 4 Learning Transition Program was created to specifically help those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Lisa said Baking Coach is open to the public to teach the general population and kids who want to learn to bake: all ages and all abilities.
Looking to continue to build on the future of Recipes 4 Learning and Baking Coach Lisa is already working on another new concept called, “Open Bake” where the public can create their own groups to come in to the Baking Coach anytime, take a kit off the shelf and make their own kit right there in the kitchen.
“If I were to tell you what Baking Coach (and Recipes 4 Learning) is today-it’s a place to gather and a place to bake,” she said.
To learn more about becoming involved with Recipes 4 Learning, visit recipes4learning.org. You can also find Recipes 4 Learning and Baking Coach on social media @recipes4learning and @bakingcoach