MEET STEPHANIE PIERCE OF PICKY TONGUE

I love everything about what I do. I think bringing people together around a table is an absolutely magical experience."


Photo courtesy of Picky Tongue


In this local feature, we chat with Stephanie Pierce of Picky Tongue. Based in Berkeley, CA, Picky Tongue offers cooking classes for people with developmental disorders. These classes help teach their clients skills that give them the ability to be independent in the kitchen.

Let's go back to the start. Tell us about Picky Tongue and your background. What was your inspiration behind it?

Picky Tongue started after I stopped slaving away in restaurants and realizing that I wanted to cook my own food and share my knowledge. I've always been a writer, so a blog seemed like the best way to go. My friend Rushdee encouraged me and I vaguely created a few posts. Fast forward to 3 years of teaching cooking to people with disabilities in London and I knew that I wanted to make this my bread and butter. The thing is, by the time I realized this I was living in Israel and didn't have access to the resources available to me in my home country. So I came back to the Bay and started Picky Tongue on an official level, complete with classes for people with developmental disorders, books, and private dining.

Photo courtesy of Picky Tongue

Your work with Picky Tongue focuses on helping people with developmental disorders be comfortable and confident in the kitchen. Tell us about this cooking program and how it has helped your clients.

Picky Tongue Teaches offers cooking classes for people with developmental disorders. I come to my student’s home armed with a personalized lesson plan that lasts for 2 months. Classes are twice weekly to ensure that the skills aren’t lost in the process. We cover everything from food safety to knife skills to cooking methods, and end with baking simple cakes. My classes are a fantastic way for the students to gain independent living skills and eventually go into employment in professional kitchens. We also work on motor skills , following directions, ingredient discovery and aversions, among other things.


Photo courtesy of Picky Tongue


In addition to cooking classes, what are other services you offer through Picky Tongue?

I offer private dining for groups of up to 6 people. I come to my client's home with nice quality ingredients and make a 3 course meal. There are currently 3 variations, a Middle Eastern menu, a California cuisine option, and a vegan eats.



The Picky Tongue Cooking blog features some really delicious recipes. Where do you draw inspiration from when creating these recipes?

I draw inspiration from my travels, I’ve been to 25 countries and have lived in 4. Traveling keeps me sane and happy and allows me to grow as a person and as a chef.




Photo courtesy of Picky Tongue



You've also written a couple of cookbooks. Tell us a little bit about these.

The first book, Picky Tongue: The Cookbook, was my COVID project. As a chef, I've always wanted to tell my story, and this was the perfect medium through which to do so. The second book, Picky Tongue: Idiotproof, is an homage to my love of teaching cooking. It breaks down cooking into manageable parts including terminology, knife skills, and simple step-by-step recipes to get novice cooks into the kitchen.


What do you think is the best part about what you do?


I love everything about what I do! I love cooking, I love teaching cooking, writing about food, cooking for people…it's all fabulous! More seriously, I think bringing people together around a table is an absolutely magical experience.




Photo courtesy of Picky Tongue



Being based in Berkeley, what do you like best about being a part of that community?


Berkeley is a place that I haunted through my early 20s so it's fun to be back here. It’s very different now, not so peculiar or filled with characters, but it is growing into its own thing. Being part of the transition is really interesting and filled with daily discoveries of great food and of course boba.




Photo courtesy of Picky Tongue




What are some of your favorite fresh local vibes?


I love coffee, Blue Bottle and Awaken are my go-to spots, but I like Berkeley Espresso to work in because the coffee is strong and the chairs comfy. For food, I love Wood Tavern in Rockridge, IMM and Berkeley Social Club for Thai and Korean fusion, respectively, Little Star Pizza for deep dish pizza, Arinell’s for Brooklyn style slices. And Cheeseboard and Berkeley Bowl. I love hiking, especially at Tilden and Joaquin Miller.





What is up next for Picky Tongue?


I want to eventually have a brick and mortar cooking school to teach people of all abilities. I also want to finish my other COVID project, a book on slow food called Picky Tongue: Lockdown.





Thanks for chatting with us! Visit PickyTongueCooking.com to learn more about cooking classes, private dining and the Picky Tongue Cookbooks.