For over four years, The Arts & Cookery Bank on 242 Graham Road in West Lorne has served as a treasure trove of culinary learning opportunities.Created as a living legacy to promote appreciation for the agricultural community’s history and having modern day relevance, this unique venture illustrates the magic that can occur through an unexpected marriage of space and function.The repurposed 1914 Bank of Montreal and 1883 timber frame barn that house the Arts & Cookery Bank may seem like an unlikely coupling — but if you ask one of the non-profit’s original founders, Grace McGartland, the adjoined structures have created the perfect space to meet and learn.
“What’s great about our venue is the studio kitchen is large enough to have a lot of hands-on activities in there — instead of being talked to or watching, you’re in there working with the chef and he or she is showing you what to do,” she says.
The versatile Cookery space, which is available for private functions, has also caught the eye of many community groups eager to hold interactive celebrations and conferences.
Smart APPetite, a collaborative, southwestern Ontario community-based project in support of local food economies and access to healthy food (from “field to fork”) hosted its first workshop at the Arts & Cookery Bank this past April. During the workshop, a focus group discussed how the project’s smartphone application (app) and interactive website should be developed so that users and local communities can get maximum benefit.
“We served everything that night that was locally made and locally grown, including local cheese and local produce” says McGartland, adding, “We have hosted numerous others, including Ontario Trillium Foundation and Elgin County. People like how our conference space offers a twist, as attendees often participate in making their own meals. It can be a great team-building exercise.”
Over 1,300 visitors tour, explore and engage at the Arts & Cookery Bank each year, many taking advantage of the diverse programs.
Youth can enjoy culinary boot camps that explore the bounty of the region, as well as black box competitions, where participants are challenged to get creative with a basket of mystery ingredients while parents watch from a separate screening room.
“The kids are the ripe audience because they are the future purchasers, the future families. In the class they get into deep methods and techniques for cooking and the value and the use of the food down the road. We bring in the farmers, butchers, egg raisers, and it’s run by professional chefs,” explains McGartland.
Visitors of all ages can enjoy method-based classes such “lost arts” and “cooking on all burners.” Eager learners are also given the chance to drive their own culinary learning experiences by helping select the theme for “Fest-a-Month” dinners, where, for $35 per person, diners also join-in in making their meal.
“For the Greek evening, we put people into the Cookery where they were taught to make phyllo dough. We had flaming cheese and everyone had a shot of ouzo. It’s very interactive,” says McGartland.
And as if all of the above wasn’t enough, according to McGartland, the scene at the Arts & Cookery Bank is going to get even more interesting as they welcome new Executive Chef and General Manager, Gerry Brandon, this summer. To learn more and get an overview of upcoming events, check out the “What’s New” section of the Arts & Cookery website.
The Arts & Cookery Bank
242 Graham Road, West Lorne
Tuesday–Friday 11 am–4 pm
Call for events on Saturdays & Sundays
Tanya Chopp is a London-based marketing communications specialist and freelance writer whose work is focused on the promotion of health, wellness and support of the arts.