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Acclaimed Pitmaster Matt Horn to Launch Free Barbecue Classes for Bay Area Kids

Introducing, the Academy of Smoke.

Horn BBQ
Lauren Saria is the editor of Eater SF and has been writing about food, drinks, and restaurants for more than a decade.

Apparently, running a James Beard award-nominated barbecue restaurant and a destination fried chicken shack, preparing for the debut of a much-anticipated burger joint, and promoting a new cookbook isn’t enough to keep Oakland’s Matt Horn busy. On top of all that, Horn now plans to launch the Academy of Smoke, a youth program to teach Bay Area kids about the history and art of barbecue in spring 2023.

Here’s the overview: It’ll be an all-expenses-paid program for most if not all participants, with classes running once a week for four to six weeks. Not only will the kids learn about the history and craft of barbecue, but the program will also touch on fire management and safety, cutting and trimming of meats, and how restaurants fit into the food system at large. The chef says the idea for the classes stems primarily from his commitment to being a community-focused restaurant. “I've always been about that, community,” Horn says. “Where ever we go, making sure we’re giving back to the community.”

Horn Barbecue

More broadly, however, Horn says he hopes the program will open Bay Area kids’ minds to some less traditional career paths. Horn says he remembers wanting to be an architect as a boy, but not always feeling like the adults around supported him toward the goal. “It was very important, as a kid, to be able to see different things and push my imagination,” Horn says. “To see there are other things out there.” The program will be open to boys and girls ages 8-12 years old, and Horn says he hopes to be able to include between 10-15 children per session with academies occurring several times annually, for example in spring, summer, and fall.

The classes will take place at Horn Barbecue in West Oakland, though the chef says he hopes to be able to incorporate a couple of “mini field trips,” to give the kids a chance to see meat processing, for example, as well as to visit a farm. He’s in talks now with partners to support the financial side of the program, but Horn says he’s excited to get to spend time with young kids who could become the future of the barbecue craft. “There's a place in barbecue for everyone,” he says. “That’s something I definitely encourage and always have championed.”

To apply to participate in the Academy of Smoke, Horn asks kids share a paragraph on why they would like to attend and a bit about themselves. More information will be available on the Horn Barbecue website in the coming weeks. Horn will select a group of children to participate in the first session in the spring.