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Intersection: The Garden As Classroom

Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House & Garden. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE
Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House & Garden. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE

The Edible Education Experience is a garden and kitchen where kids and adults will be able to learn how to grow & prepare food. The Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House and Culinary Garden features an established 1500 square-foot garden in Orlando’s College Park neighborhood. Behind it, contractors are putting the final touches on a brand new teaching kitchen.

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Brad Jones, Garden Coordinator at the Edible Education Experience. Photo: Matthew Peddie[/caption]

Students at the private, Seventh Day Adventist-run Orlando Junior Academy across the road will use the garden, and garden coordinator Brad Jones says it could also be a field trip destination for other schools and scouting groups.

Jones says this teaching kitchen and garden is unique.

"We're partnering with the chef community, and with a hospital for children, and an elementary/middle school," he says.

"Those three groups don't usually sit down at the same table, and so I think when they do, there's some really valuable things that come out of that."

Jones says the project's biggest chef supporter is Kevin Fonzo from K Restaurant.

"He was very generous to partner with us from the very foundation, and bring all of his expertise in the classroom," says Jones.

He says Fonzo introduced the team at Edible Education to Emeril Lagasse.

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Sugar cane is one of the crops growing in the culinary garden. Photo: Matthew Peddie[/caption]

Walking through the garden, Jones says it's "like a book."

"You can't read a book in just one instance. This garden we're looking at now is the beginning of 'April garden.' In three months, it will be very different. The page turns constantly."

He points out tomatoes, asparagus and eggplants, which are flourishing as the winter crops decline.

"This whole program has kind of grown out of the experience of gardening and cooking with the kids at the school," says Jones.

"We started gardening with the community and inviting people to come in, not necessarily just to stock their pantries, but to really just get an experience outside and see how food grows."

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The kitchen house features a wrap around balcony so spectators can watch the action in the kitchen. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE[/caption]

Jones says he sees the garden and kitchen as more than a horticulture or culinary program.

"We need really intelligent chefs and we need really intelligent farmers to feed us. But I really want kids to have this experience as a teaching tool for a broad range of subjects. There's not really any subject in the curriculum that can't be connected and enhanced by the way we grow and process and eat food."


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