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Doug Taylor, Community Recreation Coordinator in the new KCC Community Kitchen

Creating community in Kitsilano's kitchen

A $362,000 mega kitchen is about to open in Kitsilano. But this kitchen is not behind the walls of a…

A $362,000 mega kitchen is about to open in Kitsilano. But this kitchen is not behind the walls of a five-star restaurant, but through the open doors of the Kitsilano Community Centre (KCC).
Doug Taylor, Community Recreation Coordinator in the new KCC Community Kitchen

“We have always been able to feed 80 or 90 people, but the new kitchen will be much more efficient,” said Doug Taylor, KCC’s Community Recreation Coordinator. “It wasn’t safe to be cooking for 100 people on a small range stove.”

“The kitchen is too small for the kind of cooking that’s going on.” Between 2001 and 2006, Kitsilano’s population grew by 5.9%.

The new facility will have four huge ovens, a three-foot griddle, and a giant steam kettle designed for cooking soup and stews. There will be space to make sandwiches, a rollout steam table for cooking demonstrations, and an industrial refrigerator to keep food fresh.

“This isn’t your ordinary community kitchen,” said Mark Halyk, Chef and Programming Director for the kitchen. “The possibilities for that kitchen are endless really.”

That’s good news for guys like Charles Matthews Archibalb, who has lived on the streets of Vancouver for 15 years. “We love that place,” said Charles about KCC’s current community kitchen. “It’s the only place like it for miles.”

According to Catherine Leach, executive director of the Kitsilano Neighborhood House, resources for vulnerable populations living in the west side are limited.

“There’s a couple of other organizations and that’s about it. Honestly, I get feedback from funders that they don’t want to fund because there’s no need on the west side… but if you look at the numbers [of people] we see coming in the door, we know that they are here.”

The Neighbourhood House works to identify community needs and improve the quality of community and family life.

Geographical divisions

“I could actually tell the difference between the homeless coming from the east side and the west side,” Said Judy Graves, referring to a contrast in hygiene between the two groups. “There were shower programs on the east side but none existed anywhere on the west side.” Graves is an advocate for affordable housing in Vancouver and initiated the KCC’s shower program in 2001.

Charles understands why people live on the streets of the west side even though Vancouver’s east side has more resources.

Charles Matthew Archibalb on Bleinheim St. in Kitsilano

“I lived downtown for 23 years and I will never go back there.” said Charles with a frown, “Why? That place is full of drug dealers and killers! It’s not safe on those streets. Here… we can get by in peace.”

Kitsilano is a safe and affluent community. Condos sell for an average more than $400,000 and nearly 150 restaurants line the streets of Broadway and West 4th. The need for a new community kitchen is not obvious.

“Why here?” Said Wayne, a Kitsilano resident. He is confused by the presence of a new community kitchen in the midst of one of Vancouver’s wealthiest areas. “That puzzles me.”

But Catherine Leach doesn’t find anything puzzling about a need for social services in Kitsilano. “Everybody kind of walks around with these blinders on, but the reality is that we have the full social spectrum living here,” said Leach, “We probably have similar numbers of vulnerable populations as the east side, not Downtown East Side but the east side of Vancouver. It’s just that they are more hidden.”

Five years in the making, Ken’s Kitchen was the brain trust of the late Ken Hillman, Chair of the KCC Building Committee, who’s name the cook house now bears. Hillman’s idea was to provide a place where all members of the community, regardless of financial status, would cook and eat together.

“We’re going to be forging a way forward for what I call ‘Kitsilano cuisine’” said Halyk. He hopes to design cooking programs that meet the needs of everyone in west side in a way that will bring the members of the community together in the same kitchen.

“Food breaks down all barriers… we all need to eat and we all enjoy food,” said Halyk. “Cooking is a spiritual experience. We’re breaking bread together.”