Hostelling International Chicago

Cultural Kitchen Youth Outreach Program.

Cultural Kitchen
Chicago-area students connect to the world through participation in Hostelling International Chicago’s Cultural Kitchen program. Through an engaging week-long curriculum taught by partner teachers, students gain cultural understanding, increase their understanding of the world, and enhance research skills as they study a country of their choice.

 Learning becomes real when students come downtown to HI-Chicago, cook an ethnic meal, dine with world travelers, and present their country to an international audience. Students experience the world of travel by sleeping at the hostel before spending the morning reflecting on their learning.

View a 7-minute video of Cultural Kitchen as featured on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight. To see the video on YouTube, click here. 

Powerful Outcomes

“Being in the Cultural Kitchen program opened my eyes about other cultures. It taught me that you have to be open minded when you meet people from different backgrounds than yours. We are all different people, but if we are understanding about other people we can become a better, more peaceful world.” Araceli D, Hancock High School student

“Cultural Kitchen is a remarkable opportunity for students to experience the world in Chicago. Students practice hospitality and demonstrate their learning about the world with international travelers at HI-Chicago. It’s a great recipe for active learning and promoting international understanding.” Jon Schmidt, Chicago Public Schools Service Learning Manager

“My students were able to experience people, customs, and activities that they never would have been exposed to but for this phenomenal, one-of-a-kind program.” Heather Parker, Chicago Public School Teacher



Meeting a need In our globalized world, students need to gain proficiency in intercultural interaction as they move from high school to college and the work-force. Through greater understanding of, and appreciation for different cultures, students become more caring world citizens. Upon completion of the Cultural Kitchen program, students:

  • Strengthen their ability to communicate positively and effectively with others
  • Practice and improve their ability to work as a team
  • Become open minded and respectful of different people and cultures
  • Enhance research and presentation skills
  • Experience the world of hostelling and travel while meeting people from around the world
  • Complete one of the three Service Learning projects required for graduation 

Opening minds for 10 years Cultural Kitchen has been a signature program at HI-Chicago since the hostel opened its doors in 2000. The hostel partners with over 20 teachers to deliver the curriculum at over 20 schools each year. Local community based organization leaders also work with the hostel to bring Cultural Kitchen to their youth.  The following partners participated during the 2011-2012 school year:

  • Alternatives, Inc.
  • Amundsen High School
  • Bogan High School
  • Centro Romero
  • Christopher House
  • Curie High School
  • Gage Park High School
  • Hancock High School
  • Juarez High School
  • Kelly High School
  • King High School
  • Lindblom High School
  • Ogden International School
  • Morgan Park Academy
  • Prosser Career Academy
  • Richards Career Academy
  • Roosevelt High School
  • Schurz High School
  • South Shore High School
  • Southwest Youth Collaborative
  • St. Joseph Services
  • Taft High School

Strong leadership HI-Chicago’s Education Coordinator, Hannah Lanis, partners with strong, motivated teachers to ensure the success of the Cultural Kitchen program. Ms. Lanis has both her undergraduate degree in History and a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education, Social Studies from James Madison University.  She graduated Magna Cum Laude and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Alpha Theta, and Phi Sigma Pi. During her time in college, Ms. Lanis studied abroad at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and traveled extensively through Europe in addition to her travels to the Middle East, North Africa, and the Carribbean. 


To participate with your students Cultural Kitchen is a meaningful program that takes learning outside of the classroom. The cost of the program for up to 30 students is $1,000 and includes:

  • Cultural Kitchen curriculum which meets Common Core Standards, supports the mission of International Baccalaureate, and is a recognized Service Learning program
  • Teacher training
  • Classroom visit by HI-Chicago educator
  • Cultural Passport
  • Accommodation at HI-Chicago for students and chaperones
  • Food for ethnic dinner with world travelers facilitated by HI-Chicago educator.
  • Breakfast
  • Printed photo of each participant and Cultural Kitchen scrapbook

*If you are a Chicago Public School teacher or leader at a community based organization, please inquire about funding support.

Support Intercultural Understanding
Cultural Kitchen is a powerful educational program benefiting the youth of Chicagoland. Can you help HI-Chicago reach more youth? Please consider helping with a donation or by becoming a volunteer. It costs the hostel over $2000 for each group of youth that benefit from this program, and we utilize volunteers during the dinner preparation.

Who to Contact
For more information or to register your group, please contact:

Hannah Lanis
Education Coordinator