Cooking in a group can be a distracting experience — conversation and making sure that you’re keeping pace with everyone else are strong, if slightly unsafe, reasons to take your eyes off the cutting board. But, put a pro like celebrity chef Lynn Crawford at the station one to your left and suddenly things become a lot more intense. That’s where I found myself a couple weeks ago when I got the chance to visit The Stop‘s community kitchen on Davenport Road in Toronto.
The group of fellow bloggers and food writers had been gathered together to learn more about the partnership that has been struck between Ultima Foods (through their Iögo yogurt brand) and community kitchens. The have partnered with specific community kitchens near their production facilities, the larger Community Food Centres Canada, and with Chef Crawford.
Nick Saul is the President and CEO of Community Food Centers Canada and was the Executive Director of The Stop for more than 14 years. Saul described the situation at The Stop’s food bank when he started there as bleak, “we had to check our humanity at the door,” he said. The purpose of the community kitchen model (and community food centres as a broader concept) is to provide an environment focused on education, communal activity, and a holistic approach to food. Recognizing that this support infrastructure should be much more than the a dusty cupboard of non-perishable foodstuffs is central to the mission.
For our visit, Chef Scott Macneil took us through the process of creating a meal that might be featured on a regular day in one of the community kitchens. Our menu featured a veg-heavy pasta salad — Chef Lynn’s julienned carrots were much more uniform than mine — roasted chicken leg quarters, and a generous piece of pear spice cake.
I left with a greater sense of what community kitchens do and (thankfully) with all of digits intact.