Cooking for a cause

Volunteer to host food prep classes to benefit Jubilee Center

After Sephora Castro lost her job, she decided to increase her commitment to the community. So, over the past few months, Castro taught Hoboken children how to cook non-traditional dishes, and shared some interesting facts about the food along the way.
The classes became very popular, with more than 40 children taking in her lessons. Now, Castro is inviting adults in Hudson County to take her cooking class, and all of the proceeds will benefit the Jubilee Center, a non-profit facility that provides activities for Hoboken’s kids.
“When I was downsized, I asked the [people at the Jubilee Center], is there any way I can help you guys through the summer?” Castro said. With that, she began to teach a cooking class.

“I believe in their mission to provide children with the resources to continue to thrive.” – Sephora Castro
Castro’s summer cooking class was made up of children between the ages of 5 and 13. She taught them how to prepare meals that they wouldn’t normally eat, such as Thai and Vietnamese foods.
“I was able to combine an educational component by giving background information on the dish while still allowing the children to play an integral role in preparing the meal,” she said.
Castro believes that introducing the children to the meals increases the likelihood that they’ll eat healthier meals in the future.
“A lot of times if kids see a dish that’s out of the norm, they’re not inclined to eat it,” Castro said. “However, once they participate in its creation it takes the food to a new level for the kids.”

Adults now welcome

Beginning Sept. 15, Castro will offer her popular cooking class to residents of Hudson County at the Hoboken Jubilee Center, 601 Jackson St. Castro will host eight classes, and each individual class costs $75. All proceeds will go to the Jubilee Center. The classes run every Thursday from Sept. 15 to Nov. 3, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
“This is kind of like my little project,” she said. “I’ll teach people how to make delicious, nutritious meals in under an hour.”
Castro said the average class size for children was approximately 20 students, but she hopes to have smaller groups in the adult learning classes to make the cooking experience more personal. The class will last for two hours.
The adult class is open to people with “all different cooking skill sets.”
“My background isn’t in cooking,” Castro said, pointing out that she studied communications in college. “I just have a love for food. I always say if you can read, you can cook. It’s just a matter of following the directions and ultimately being able to enjoy the fruits of your labor.”
Castro said different supermarkets, including ShopRite, have teamed up with the Jubilee Center to lower the price of food for the class. Castro also said she hopes to create a partnership with a chef from the W Hotel in Hoboken to help with the classes.

Supporting their mission

In addition to the cooking class, the Jubilee Center offers yoga, martial arts, and computer classes, as well as field trips for children who primarily come from low-income families.
“I believe in what they do,” Castro said when asked why she volunteers so much at the Jubilee Center. “I grew up in an inner city area. I believe in the importance of giving back. I’m able to help and it’s not costing me anything.”
Castro said her upbringing helps her identify with the children at the Jubilee Center.
“As a child growing up, I was in a single parent household,” Castro said. “My mother relied on certain after-school programs to keep me safe, off the streets, and these types of programs work. The Jubilee Center is a great place for the kids to be. I believe in their mission to provide children with the resources to continue to thrive.”

Personal blog

Castro recently began her own blog, called “Recession-Proof Your Palate,” where she writes about unknown food destinations throughout Hudson County, searching for great deals. To see the blog, visit
“I’ll tell people where they can get great food for under $10,” she said. “A lot of times people may not know where they can get great food, and who doesn’t want to hold on to their money?”
For more information on the cooking class, which is open to the general public, contact the Jubilee Center at (201) 792-3390.
Ray Smith may be reached at


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