Green Gulch Kitchen Apprenticeship Program

The Green Gulch Kitchen Apprenticeship Program is an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in vegetarian cooking while working in a Zen kitchen that integrates Buddhist practice into every aspect of the work.

Choose from the following available dates (Tuesday to Tuesday):

October 18, 2016 – January 28, 2017 (includes the Kitchen Intensive)
January 31 – June 19, 2017
June 19 – October 15, 2017

October 15, 2017 – January 28, 2018 (includes the Kitchen Intensive)

Please read the background information on this page and on the Green Gulch Kitchen Apprenticeship Application Process page, where an application is available. Questions may be addressed to the the guest student manager at ggfstudent@sfzc.org.

Green Gulch Cooking

Green Dragon Temple, Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, was established in 1972 by the San Francisco Zen Center, a nonprofit religious organization dedicated to the practice and study of Zen Buddhism in the Soto Zen lineage as conveyed by its founding teacher, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. It is a residential Zen training temple dedicated to the practices of farming, hosting guests, and offering the Dharma to the wider world. Located in a beautiful coastal valley just a short drive north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Green Gulch Farm provides a serene environment for personal retreats, meetings, conferences, seminars and workshops. For more than 40 years the Green Gulch kitchen has provided nourishing delicious vegetarian meals for guests, conferences and the residential community.

The inspiration for Green Gulch’s food and cooking style comes directly from Dogen Zenji, the founder of Zen Buddhism in Japan, who so revered the teaching he received from monastery cooks that he wrote a set of instructions for running the kitchen—the Tenzokyokun.

Former San Francisco Zen Center residents Edward Espe Brown (author of The Tassajara Bread Book), Annie Somerville (executive chef of Greens Restaurant in San Francisco), and Deborah Madison (author of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone) developed fresh styles of vegetarian cuisine informed by the experience of organic gardeners and farmers at Green Gulch like Wendy Johnson (author of Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate). They all emphasized mindful preparation of food and a sincere and joyful approach that continues to inspire Green Gulch cooking. The Green Gulch kitchen appreciates the integrity of the ingredients produced on the farm as well as organic farms in the neighborhood. Kitchen apprentices learn to work with the seasonal offerings of the farm and develop their craft by taking part in all aspects of the work necessary to produce breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Green Gulch bakery under Mick Sopko offers fresh bread on a daily basis for the wider community.

Zen Kitchen Practice and Zen Training

Work has always had a special place in Zen Buddhism. Suzuki Roshi, the founder of San Francisco Zen Center, continued Zen’s “chop wood, carry water” tradition by teaching that work was as important to practice as meditation. Immersion in a Buddhist kitchen involves wholehearted engagement in the tasks at hand, as well as attention to detail and a commitment to maintaining a harmonious workplace. Apprentices have the opportunity to learn how to apply Buddhist principles in the day-to-day practice of offering food to guests and residents every day. A daylong bread-baking workshop and a day of harvesting on the farm are integral parts of the apprenticeship program.

Green Gulch’s approach is to nourish all beings by infusing love and mindfulness into the whole process of cooking and baking, and to take care of the community by cultivating harmony and sincerity in the kitchen itself. We rely on apprentices to wholeheartedly engage with the work-practice schedule at Green Gulch and the Zen kitchen practices used here.

Kitchen apprentices are actively engaged with Zen Buddhism by following the daily meditation schedule and participating in the life of a practicing Buddhist community. In addition, apprentices study the Tenzokyokun, or "Instructions to the Cook," written in the 13th century by the founder of Soto Zen, Eihei Dogen. Green Gulch practice leaders meet regularly with apprentices to help make connections between working in the Green Gulch kitchen and “cooking your life.”

The Green Gulch Kitchen Apprenticeship is one of several entry-level work practice apprenticeship (WPA) programs available within the two-year program of study that is a prerequisite for applying for a residential staff position at San Francisco Zen Center. Upon successful completion of the four-month apprenticeship, a student becomes eligible to receive a scholarship for a practice period at either Green Gulch Farm Zen Center or City Center; if the student has previously completed an SFZC practice period, the scholarship may be applied to a practice period at Tassajara.

What We Look for in an Applicant

The Green Gulch Kitchen Apprentice program attracts a diverse and dynamic group of people with many skills and interests, and of varying ages and backgrounds. We look for people who have:  

  • A desire to learn Zen practice within the context of living and working in a thriving Zen Buddhist community.
  • A passion for delicious and nutritious vegetarian food, in particular for creating flavorful and healthful meals using available ingredients.
  • An openness to new experience and a willingness to learn .
  • Good attention to detail.
  • Willingness to share communal living and support each other in practicing together.
Application Process

Applications are received year round. For detailed information and an application form please go to Green Gulch Kitchen Apprenticeship Application Process