Last May we wrapped up a year-long series of 12 kitchen workshops focused on basic, healthy cooking skills. Danny Guarino, long-time volunteer at the Roulant and workshop teacher, brought his kitchen expertise and passion for fresh seasonal vegetables into the kitchen. Participants had the opportunity to benefit from Danny’s gentle, encouraging leadership style as well as his vast knowledge of everything food related. With Danny’s guidance we learned chopping and preparation techniques and cooked many delicious dishes, from Swiss chard frittata and black bean brownies to salmon papillote and celery-root remoulade. Each main dish was accompanied by a salad with plenty of fresh veggies, and one of the best parts was sitting down to enjoy a meal with the group at the end of each workshop.
Though we’ve offered many different kitchen workshops at the Roulant, from Persian cuisine to cheesemaking, hosting this workshop series was a new experience for the Roulant as it was offered specifically to low-income individuals. In addition to promoting the workshops in our newsletters we reached out to participants through partnering organisations in Montreal. Participants followed sets of 6 workshops, a format designed to build lasting food skills and the confidence to repeat the techniques and recipes at home. These workshops fit in particularly well within our mission to increase food security, break social and economic isolation, and increase autonomy.
The results? We received tons of positive feedback about the workshops. Participants really enjoyed the warm, friendly Roulant atmosphere and the chance to share the experience of cooking with others. Based on a survey results, many participants integrated what they learned into their regular cooking and shopping habits. One participant wrote,“I have made salads almost every day (though I freestyle the recipes) after Danny said that we should eat raw veggies every day (it really stuck with me)”. We were happy to hear that following these workshops inspired participants and provided them with the tools to make positive, healthy changes in their lives.
We also gained new insights and ideas for improving future community kitchen activities. For example, we learned that people would like to have the opportunity to contribute financially to costs (workshops were offered free of charge), and that the 6 workshop format was not flexible enough for everyone.
For the Roulant, this was an incredibly positive experience. We saw that in was within our scope to create a lasting and significant impact and reach out to new community members who could really benefit from this service. Looking forward, this pilot project will certainly have an influence on workshops to come and other community kitchen activities. Focusing workshops on delicious, healthy foods in a sociable and inclusive environment fits in perfectly with our existing work at the Roulant, and we would like to continue doing more of it!
An enormous thank you to the Foundation of Greater Montreal, who funded this project and who’s support helps us greatly in achieving our mission of increasing food security and breaking social isolation.