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
Jul 26, 2019

Reconnecting with community cooking!

Sugar free tart and sweet pie class
Sugar free tart and sweet pie class

As promised in my last report, I finally started up my community classes again this quarter! I've been trying to alternate between new classes for participants who came to all of last year's classes, and a repeat of last year's classes for the new participants who want to learn what was offered last year too. So far I've repeated our popular artisan bread making class, healthy homestyle Chinese cooking, and our pesto class, to take advantage of all of the herbs that are growing in the rooftop garden and needed to be trimmed back. Some people from last year have even repeated the classes, eager to refresh their minds and relive the flavours!

The new classes I've developed and shared so far are homemade Mexican mole with salsa verde, pie crusts with savoury quiches and chicken pot pie, and refined sugar-free sweet pies and tarts. All have been well received, and we have a good mix of participation from all neighbourhoods in the city!

In addition to the classes, I've been working on getting the house and project organized both physically and administration-wise, with more than 4 years of photos and videos that need to be categorized and archived; it's a long process, but it's going well. I also found out that one of the big international tourism operations I've been in contact with for 5 years now and hoped to partner with, have chosen a different project in Medellin to support with their organized tours. So while this is an unfortunate blow to Via Cocina's strategy of sustainable project management and financing through tourism activities, I'm happy for the other organization that will hopefully be able to bloom and increase their infrastructure and support for vulnerable women on the other side of the city. At the same time, it means that organizing our visuals and online presence, and working harder to have stronger marketing material, references/rankings, and direct relationships with a variety of tourism companies and online platforms becomes an even bigger priority for this year, as we strive to be fully operational in 2020.

And as you might have imagined, it's almost impossible for us to go a full quarter without some type of renovation in the training space: with the funds from the community classes and some private events, I was finally able to save enough money to purchase the materials and pay for the installation of a drywall false ceiling in the kitchen! As I write this report, one of the workers is in the kitchen using plastic containers as improvised stilts as he plasters up the joints, before I clean and remove all of the dust from the kitchen to have it sterilized for my monthly cooking event and final bread class, and the workers come back and finish up sanding and painting. Once that's done I can do one final big cleaning job and the kitchen will take on a new breath of fresh air!

Thanks as always for taking the time to read our reports, and for your support from near and far!

Happy summer!

Brian

Quiche and savoury pie cooking class
Quiche and savoury pie cooking class
Picking herbs in the rooftop garden for pesto
Picking herbs in the rooftop garden for pesto
Some pesto cooking class participants
Some pesto cooking class participants
Mole cooking class
Mole cooking class
Mole
Mole
Chinese homestyle cooking class
Chinese homestyle cooking class
Chinese cooking for all ages
Chinese cooking for all ages
Bread making class before drywall installation
Bread making class before drywall installation
Drywall installation in process
Drywall installation in process
New kitchen ceiling on its way!
New kitchen ceiling on its way!
May 1, 2019

A productive quarter with results you can see!

Rooftop garden blooming
Rooftop garden blooming

Hola! We were extremely fortunate and productive over the last few months, with another wave of tourism groups arriving mostly from France. So apart from Humberto finishing the beautiful flooring, we were able to purchase an oven for the kitchen! And with a reservation paid for a group of 28 arriving later this year, we were also able to purchase the tables and chairs required for the seating area above the future entrepreneurial sales centre!

Additionally, we had a number of volunteers helping out in the project, and with Lydia and Christine were able to design and create a structure for a future hydroponic vertical garden! This will be used to grow 147 edible plants at a time, while teaching the community how they too can take advantage of vertical space to increase access to healthy foods grown at home.

With Nick we started rustproofing the roof's metal beams, and I finished painting the ceiling black, which has made a dramatic change to the appearance of the spaces with a much more polished look.

And we were also very happy to receive a contribution to the project to renovate/finish one of the pending spaces in the house entrance! This has transformed the centre with counters, shelves and cabinets that give us space to store the dishware that will be used by budding project entrepreneurs to sell to the public, hopefully before the year end if things continue to get accomplished at this pace!

Between all this whirlwind of action, one of my culinary professors from Jonquiere Quebec came to visit at the beginning of March, which was a welcome surprise and break! I hadn't seen Caroline in 13+ years, and it was great to have her around, adding her personal touches to our kitchen space while enjoying the city.

All in all, I am extremely happy and even a bit surprised by the amount of progress the project achieved this past quarter, with the help of a lot of people committed to seeing us move forward. Now I'm looking forward to having things calm down a bit on the renovation side of things, so I can finally start up community cooking classes again and reconnect with everyone eager to continue learning with Vía Cocina!

Talk to you soon!

Brian

Humberto installing flooring
Humberto installing flooring
Lydia and Christine building hydroponic structure
Lydia and Christine building hydroponic structure
Nick rustproofing beams
Nick rustproofing beams
New tables for entrepreneurial customers with view
New tables for entrepreneurial customers with view
Happy with newly renovated space
Happy with newly renovated space
Newly painted ceiling is a dramatic change
Newly painted ceiling is a dramatic change
 
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