With the announcement of a $250,000 gift from the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, students of Orlando Junior Academy's Edible Education Experience broke ground Wednesday morning on the Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House & Culinary Garden on King Street across from the school in the College Park neighborhood.
Brian Kish, president of the New Orleans based organization, was on hand for the Wednesday morning ceremony. "The Emeril Lasse Foundation is very excited to be here to partner with Orlando Junior Academy and the Edible Education Experience to help reconnect students back to the source of their food," Kish said, "to understand where their food comes from and maybe more importantly the nutrition behind it."
The new facility will feature an environmentally sustainable 3,000 square foot kitchen house with classroom space for the school's Nutritional Science Lab. The space will be designed in collaboration with Midtown Architecture Studio and HuntonBrady Architects.
It will be a vast improvement over the facilities the school is currently using — a repurposed classroom with no hot water and only portable hot plates for cooking. The new Kitchen House will have four cooking stations for instructors, including Kevin Fonzo, chef and owner of K restaurant, and certified raw food chef Sarah Cahill, to teach students about food and nutrition.
Today's announcement is a continuation of a program that started seven years ago when OJA instructor Brad Jones, who oversees the school's garden, had dinner in the backyard of the K space (which was then Fonzo's Nonna restaurant). Jones asked to speak to the chef, and he convinced Fonzo to get involved in the school's nutrition program. Since then, Fonzo has been teaching cooking and nutrition classes.
Other organizations in the community that have contributed to the project include TLC Engineering, Allan & Conrad, Poulos & Bennett, Davis & Associates and Brasfield & Gorrie. Orlando Junior Academy is a nonprofit school operated by Seventh-day Adventists and Florida Hospital for Children.