Origins Kitchen, an integral part of The Exploration Place’s new spaces, is a teaching kitchen.
“To be able to offer a mission-linked kitchen that will also drive revenue is a huge piece of our business case,” Tracy Calogheros, Chief Executive Officer at The Exploration Place, said. “So we’re looking to expand what we had been piloting with our childcare program where we grew vegetables in the gardens where the kids would pick what they were growing and learn about the whole process of where their food comes from.”
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit and forced closures of public spaces the board at The Exploration Place decided to do the much-needed upgrades to the space to be sure to keep everyone safe and then dreams of renovations to offer a different kind of experience grew from that and became a reality after a two-and-a-half-year closure. The childcare service was closed due to Covid and will not be a part of programming moving forward and now Origins Kitchen will provide service to the community in another way.
“The idea is that we will locally source as much as possible, we will grow and create as much as possible,” Calogheros said. “We’re intending to have a microgreens wall that will fit into the Gaia Gallery and there are pieces like that still coming and then the teaching component comes in with three teaching islands in the kitchen where we can put an entire class of kids or we can do evening adult classes where people can learn how to cook with a partner or we can partner with Northern Health and base it around families at risk, teaching people not just where their food comes from but how to cook it, how to select the right produce – not just how to be cost effective but how to make it healthy, too.”
And with all that in mind, The Exploration Place hired Chef Jeni Arnott, who takes the reigns on Origins Kitchen.
“In the past I would never have used chef as a descriptor,” Arnott said. “It’s been many years of me wanting to cook, then starting to cook as a little kid and then my parents owning restaurants and learning from them and then how things developed from there. Food has always been a part of my life but seriously since 2014.”
Arnott used to cater the museum’s events over the years and then was approached to take on the position as executive chef of Origins Kitchen.
When her most recent business closed as a result of the pandemic restrictions, Arnott and her husband had discussed big picture dreams that would lift up the community.
“We had dreams of a not-for-profit community centre where we had cooking classes, and all these other programs, but I was a little gun shy because of what had happened but that sort of thing was always in the back of my mind. When they brought me in to talk to me, I asked Tracy if she would be interested in having it as a teaching kitchen,” Arnott said.
Right now it’s a kitchen that is encased in glass where visitors at the museum can already view all the food-focused action.
“It’s almost an exhibit itself,” Arnott said. “Then we can teach our community, teach them where our food comes from, how to prepare food, even on a budget, right up to beautifully prepared food. We’re starting very basic and right now we’re educating our staff and then we’ll move into educating the community.”