xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

New cooking experiences for the New Year at Carroll County library

Anne Marie Scherck, 13, of Eldersburg couldn’t hide her amazement as she sliced through an orange pepper with ease using a plastic, serrated lettuce knife during a cooking class at Exploration Commons in the Westminster Branch of Carroll County Public Library.

“It cuts really smooth,” Anne Marie said. “Where did you get this?”

Advertisement

Lettuce knives are just one of the many tools and utensils available in the commercial teaching kitchen, which features an island that seats eight and has tables to accommodate 20 students. Multiple cameras and screens also provide close-ups for the numerous cooking classes the library has planned.

“We brainstormed and had close to 800 ideas for classes,” said Nancy Farace, instructor and an experience design specialist at the library. “We have quite a database of ideas to make come to life.”

Advertisement
Advertisement

On Dec. 29, Anne Marie took part in only the second cooking class at the facility, a milestone noted by Farace when the pans crackled while heating up clock-faced quesadillas.

“You’re the first people to use the pans!” Farace announced with glee during the Happy Noon Year’s family cooking class.

As the supervisor for Lewis Contractors, the general contractors responsible for creating Exploration Commons, John Moro oversaw the transformation of the library basement from four cement walls to a kitchen “Gordon Ramsey would die to have.”

“I think this is a fabulous idea,” said Moro, who was sitting in on the Noon Year’s class while supervising an elevator repair. “I am glad they are sharing it with everyone. I just think this is amazing.”

Advertisement

Five years in the making, Exploration Commons opened in early December and is one of only a handful in the country according to Jen Bishop, emerging and digital technologies manager at the library.

“We don’t have books but experiences,” Bishop said. “We hope to keep expanding and offering more programs and experiences. We will keep building on what we have.”

Along with the professional teaching kitchen, Exploration Commons at 50 East offers a makerspace area featuring laser cutters, 3-D printers and design software; and meeting rooms with audiovisual equipment and flexible seating arrangements.

There is also an area for virtual reality games where Bob Kuntz, the library’s director of operations and innovations, was spotted by the class as he actively tested out the equipment to their delight.

The goal of the teaching kitchen is to offer an average of four cooking classes a week, according to Farace, with guest chefs and cookbook authors featured regularly. Class topics for January cover everything from basic knife skills to shortbread baking and meal prep strategies.

“We try to meet the needs of our clients, that’s why we’re here,” said Katie Haines, also an experience design specialist who was assisting Farace with the class. “We want to teach people what they want to learn.”

Already, they have received requests for classes on sushi rolling and for preparing Chinese food, Haines said.

Katherine Scherck said she would like to see more kids’ cooking classes, as her both her children, Anne Marie, and James, 9, are responsible for cooking one meal a week for their family.

“It’s not that hard, you just follow a recipe,” Anne Marie said. The New Year’s themed cooking class was fun, she said, because it was “something different.”

Jackson Bembe, 10, also enjoyed the class because they made recipes he probably “couldn’t make at home,” he said, to his mother’s surprise.

“We can’t make these at home? We get to take the recipes home,” Sarah Bembe of Taylorsville told her son. “We can make them at home for New Year’s.”

Bembe said both Jackson and her daughter, Brooke, 7, had wanted to take a class after touring the kitchen shortly after it opened.

“They heard about the class and have talked about it ever since,” Bembe said. “We do stuff at home but it is exciting to take a class. This is pretty amazing.”

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement