(NOTE: The following article appeared in the Daily Sitka Sentinel‘s Weekender section on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. It was written by Sitka Local Foods Network board president and Sitka Kitch advisory team member Charles Bingham, who also took the photos.)
By CHARLES BINGHAM
For the Daily Sitka Sentinel
With a mission to “Educate, Incubate, Cultivate,” the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen serves a variety of functions to improve food security in Sitka. It’s a classroom, a maker space and a community meeting place.
The Sitka Kitch project was a result of the 2013 Sitka Health Summit and is coordinated by the Sitka Conservation Society. Located inside the First Presbyterian Church (505 Sawmill Creek Road), the Sitka Kitch is best known for the variety of cooking and food preservation classes it regularly hosts.
Right now, registration is open for five classes in a Cooking Around The World series, where a variety of instructors will teach students international dishes from Morocco, Chile, Thailand, Austria (strudel), and Turkey. Registration also is open for a five-class series called “Nourish: Using Food As Medicine For Optimum Health,” taught during National Nutrition Month (March) by Sitka nutritionist Holly Marban.
The Sitka Kitch plans a series of food preservation classes this summer, and may host a cottage foods entrepreneurship class in the future. It also has offered basic culinary skills and Cooking From Scratch classes in recent months. In addition, the Sitka Spruce Tips 4H Club has hosted cooking and food preservation classes for kids at the Sitka Kitch.
The Sitka Kitch offers a full schedule of classes because learning how to cook and preserve your own food allows Sitkans to improve their nutrition and extend their food budgets.
“The Sitka Kitch programming team already has plans underway for a dynamic 2017 Preserving the Harvest series,” said Lisa Sadleir-Hart, a member of the Sitka Kitch advisory team. “In addition to some old time favorites like pickling, jam, jelly and fruit butter classes, the Sitka Kitch team is hoping to offer classes focused on local foods and medicinals like seaweed, devil’s club, rhubarb and rosehips. June will showcase a ‘Clean Out Your Freezer’ class and an ‘Introduction to Food Dehydration’ class as well.”
While it isn’t as well known as the classes, the Sitka Kitch also provides an Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation-certified commercial kitchen for local cottage food entrepreneurs to use as a maker space. One of the businesses that rents the Sitka Kitch (by the hour) is Simple Pleasures, a Sitka company that sells jams, jellies, kelp pickles and other products around the state. In addition, other groups have used the Sitka Kitch as a meeting venue, such as the Sitka Conservation Society, which hosted its 2016 annual meeting in the Sitka Kitch.
“The Sitka Conservation Society is proud of the Sitka Kitch’s work to build community connection and celebrate local, healthy and delicious food,” said Sitka Conservation Society Community Catalyst Chandler O’Connell, another member of the Sitka Kitch advisory team. “We hope that the community kitchen will continue to be a positive space for Sitkans to come together and share their skills.”
The Sitka Kitch has a website where people can learn how to rent the kitchen, http://www.sitkakitch.org/, and a Facebook page which posts class updates and other info, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaKitch. To learn more about and register for classes, go to the online registration page, http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com/, and click on the class title. You can pay for classes online using credit/debit cards or PayPal, or you can call Chandler or Clarice at the Sitka Conservation Society (747-7509) to arrange a time to pay with cash or check.
Local businesses can sponsor upcoming classes for $300 per class, which helps cover the instructor stipend, facility rental and food/supply costs. Contact Chandler at 747-7509 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.