May 8, 2020

Staying busy and positive in trying times

One of our new recipes for future classes
One of our new recipes for future classes

It's incredible to see the entire world turned upside down, and as with many organizations who work with tourism and community groups, all of our scheduled activities have been cancelled for the past two months and the foreseeable future.

Before the cancellations started coming in, we were fortunate enough to have a great beginning to the year, allowing us to continue with the rooftop kitchen renovations, all designed by me for the spaces available, including a huge kitchen island that has additional counters stored under one side for larger classes, and drawers on the other side with a stovetop for more participatory cooking around the table. We'll also be able to use this space with project participants to record cooking videos/streams, which is becoming more important during times of self-isolation and quarantine. We've also got kitchen cupboards installed on the wall, which completely transformed the space, and a counter combination with sink, baine-marie heating station and under the counter fridge. With some friends/volunteers (Jonathan, Mar and Germán), we started installing the drywall ceiling before coronavirus was the most popular internet search, and I've continued the work on my own while isolated. I'll need to acquire some materials that aren't available right now to finish the job perfectly, but it's looking very good!

I'm taking advantage of this time at home to advance all types of little project jobs/tasks that have been outstanding for months/years, so I do feel very productive. This goes beyond renovations to include new menus for future cooking classes, so that we can vary the food that's prepared and shared with neighbours (I must say that with all the money being spent on personal groceries right now, I truly appreciate the fact that the community classes allowed me and my neighbours to eat a lot of delicious food over the past years without having to create a personal budget for it). The gardens are also better organized, with new vegetables and herbs growing slowly in as much of the spaces as I could prep without access to more soil and compost (another task on my list is to get our own composting started). All of these activities (in addition to many administrative tasks organizing computer files and prepping to update the website) should also help with productivity and the general project participant experience in the future, which we are as eager as everyone to see start again.

In my next report I'll also have news on a coronavirus Giving Tuesday initiative we're in the process of organizing with a friend from Canada, to distribute healthy food and cooking experiences to up to 500 people in the coming weeks. And we also have a friend in Florida running a generous fundraiser to help us continue the outstanding rooftop and sales space renovations as soon as possible, which is a huge help as we've had to re-allocate renovation funds to pay basic services and loan installments/interest that are not eligible for any relief support at this time. In any case, we are definitely staying positive and healthy here (though I wish it were possible to do some more exercise outside), and we're looking forward to staying better prepared for what comes next!

Stay safe and talk to you soon!

Brian

In-person connections and smiles are missed
In-person connections and smiles are missed
Installing drywall with German
Installing drywall with German
This mask serves a double purpose now
This mask serves a double purpose now
Kitchen Island with additional counters
Kitchen Island with additional counters
Kitchen island storage side
Kitchen island storage side
Rooftop kitchen cabinets and counters
Rooftop kitchen cabinets and counters
Fruit tasting with the new island
Fruit tasting with the new island
Jan 14, 2020

Busy holiday season and more renovations complete!

Picking fresh mint during a cooking class
Picking fresh mint during a cooking class

The end of the year 2019 was a busy one, but I did manage to take some time away and enjoy 18 relaxing days in Peru, where I continued a delicious eating frenzy, and brought back a lot of ingredients and supplies for future cooking classes in Medellin.

December to February is considered high season for tourism here, and I have been kept busy with cooking classes and project tours, which brought in enough money to get a rooftop constructed over the front patio dining area! I repurposed a garage door opener to make the roof partially retractable, in an effort to not completely lose the beautiful mountain view from the rooftop gardens. With one of our trusted workers Duban, we also cut, welded and installed budget lighting that looks gorgeous, and cost a fraction of what would have otherwise been a very expensive job.

Now that we have the retractable roof done, before we can seal off the stairs leading to the rooftop gardens and make the front area independent (for low-income entrepreneurs and their clients to sell and enjoy delicious affordable food), we need to get all the big construction materials for the rooftop kitchen completed, as it will be very difficult to get the materials upstairs afterwards. That work has also started, as you will see soon!

Hannah has arrived from the United States for the month of January: she came last year for a cooking class while touring Colombia with her mom, then stayed in touch, asking to intern in between university semesters. She's helping in the kitchen with activities, learning how the project works from an administrative and marketing standpoint, and is helping research potential clients online, to help position us better for more activities once this construction finally comes to an end. I'll have lots more to share and show in the next report, as we come ever so close to finishing!

Have a great 2020 and talk to you soon!

New lights installed under the new roof
New lights installed under the new roof
New roof and lights streetview
New roof and lights streetview
Hannah making fresh soup for a group dinner
Hannah making fresh soup for a group dinner
Happy group enjoying their welcome dinner with us
Happy group enjoying their welcome dinner with us
Oct 18, 2019

More personal (and project space) renovation!

One of our new takes on a traditional chicken dish
One of our new takes on a traditional chicken dish

This quarter has flown by, as a third of it was spent travelling back to Canada for administrative work, with a LOT of eating and visiting friends in between. I needed to get away from the project and recharge, learning new things that I can bring back to my project participants with refreshed energy. So on my way to Toronto, I stopped for 5 days in New Orleans, where I visited a former Via Cocina volunteer, and took a couple cooking classes so that I can share Cajun and Creole cuisine in some of my community classes and events here in Medellin. I also spent time in Saguenay Quebec, visiting my cooking professor Caroline, who had come here last March to visit the project. I participated in some of her cooking classes and have developed a new bread making class for the local community classes here, which will be shared in the next couple weeks!

Before my travels, we managed to finish the kitchen drywall and stainless steel station installation, which makes it much easier to keep the kitchen organized now. We're still cleaning paint up off the floor however, which is a never-ending task.

And right before I left, we were able to finally get the second floor hardwood floor sanded, sealed and polished, which was another huge outstanding job; with this done, we can start to use the second floor for project activities, and I can also finally construct myself a bedframe out of old recuperated wood doors, which will be installed in my little apartment in the back of the house (I can finally say goodbye to 4 years of sleeping on my sofa bed!).

With this work done, we'll finally be doing a huge cleaning of the house with volunteers, to get rid of as much construction dust as possible. I've already done the designs for the outstanding house renovations required to activate the entrepreneurial space and rooftop kitchen/training centre, but am looking forward to some renovation downtime as we increase the number of classes available to the public during tourism high season. We've been spending a lot of time testing out new recipes for a number of classes, so I'm looking forward to sharing them!

Thanks for reading our updates, I hope they motivate you to stay connected as I transmit how motivated I am to keep Via Cocina moving forward!

Touring food plants with Caroline in Quebec
Touring food plants with Caroline in Quebec
Participating in Caroline's European bread class
Participating in Caroline's European bread class
Finished kitchen ceiling, stainless steel station
Finished kitchen ceiling, stainless steel station
Hardwood floor before finishing
Hardwood floor before finishing
Finished hardwood floor
Finished hardwood floor
 
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