Master, Chef


Learning to cook can change your life. Certainly that’s what happened for Bruce Tisler.

Tisler, a chef and wine expert who graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and previously worked at Pinot Blanc in St. Helena, has always brought that M.O. to his work. Since 2011, Tisler, a member of Green Dragon Masonic Fellowship Lodge No. 857, has run Healthy Food Experiences for Children, a six-to eight-week culinary training program that offers teens a restaurant-work permit and others introductory kitchen skills. “Food is intrinsic to life, and the understanding of that opens the doors to chemistry, physics, and math,” Tisler says.

That much he already knew. But after a chance encounter in 2011 led Tisler to Freemasonry, he developed a bold plan to help kids statewide by activating an underutilized element of California lodges: their kitchens.

Tisler designed his first cooking workshop at the urging of an executive with a local teen guidance center. However, a week before the first class was set to begin, the kitchen he’d arranged to use fell through. Though he wasn’t a Mason, inspiration struck while he was driving past the Bakersfield Masonic Temple, which he’d heard had a large kitchen. He reached out to an acquaintance who was a member. “I went there thinking, This has got to work,” Tisler says. “And it did. The Masons really stepped up.”

Lodge members didn’t just offer the kitchen—they joined in, both that night and on several occasions afterward. Before long, Tisler was cooking for lodge events, and a year later he asked to join.

Now Tisler is looking to expand the program by tapping into other lodges’ kitchens. Tisler has designed adjustable worktables for children in wheelchairs, and says all the equipment for his program will fit in a trailer that can travel to lodges across Kern County. While commercial kitchens Tisler designs for restaurant clients can cost as much as $500,000, he says bringing the class to Masonic lodges requires just $20,000, which he’s beginning to fundraise for now. “The entire model can be replicated anywhere,” he says. “Fundamentally, teaching children how to cook is about self-reliance. It gives them confidence. It’s very powerful.”

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