Meet the Cook! Staff

Tracy Paulding Cates


Tracy Cates is the creator and director of COOK! Programs, where she passionately guides kids, ages 8 – 18 toward success through culinary experimentation. She has a BA in Traditional Eastern Arts from Naropa University and has completed a one-year training in Chanoyu (The Japanese Art of Tea), in Kyoto, Japan at the Urasenke Foundation. Her culinary training comes from close to 30 years of professional experience, peppered with intensive studies with chefs from around the world. In addition to her love for food and cooking, Tracy is deeply dedicated to education and providing opportunities for young people to nurture their interests, cultivate their skills, and have the confidence to be productive and positive role models in their own communities. 

Celeste Cooper, Camp Director

Camp Director

Celeste began cooking and baking at an early age with her family. She has worked in many professional kitchens and loves the excitement and creativity that goes into making food and feeding others. She attended the California Culinary Academy for Baking and Pastry Arts and has owned a few businesses here in the Bay Area. Celeste’s current business, Hen House, in Oakland, is “the tiniest and mightiest pizzeria in town.” Celeste has taught for COOK! Programs for 4 years and joins us in 2018 as the camp director

Francisco Machado

Chef and Teacher

Francisco “Cisco” Machado fell in love with food early on. While working his way through college in Southern California, Cisco became an apprentice at a local French kitchen. It was here that he developed the skills required to launch his culinary career. He has worked across the United States both as a Restaurant Chef and as an Executive Pastry Chef. In 1996, Cisco won the Bay Area’s Regional James Beard Competition with his creation, the “Chocolate and Port Torte.” Before starting his own catering company, he was Executive Chef for All About Food, a catering company based in Emeryville. Prior to his tenure at AAF, Cisco was busy within Silicon Valley’s Internet Boom. He has been involved with many successful hotels, restaurants and chefs, including Matthew Kinney and Mario Batali, The Four Seasons and Fairmont Hotels. Cisco has been involved with COOK! since the beginning and continues on this year as the instructor for our Chef In Training course.