Reviving a Local Food Culture with a Return to the Table
Jami Saunders and Susannah Sammons are two remarkable women with a big vision and lots of passion. The two began the Culinary Arts Center (CAC) in February with the vision of "reviving a local food culture." As Susannah puts it, "Our desire is to see the community return to the table, and for Columbia to collaborate and come out and support one another as they revive a local food culture."
Neither of the two claim to be chefs but instead have the goal of supporting chefs. Initially they started out their business model with classes of their own content, essentially as "chefs or coaches in our own kitchen," Jami explains. However, the team has also begun offering a variety of classes taught by local chefs.
"What we are striving for at CAC, and our chefs and coaches feel the same way, is to offer something fabulous that cannot be downloaded on YouTube. Something that really gets folks in Columbia and surrounding areas eating, learning, making food together and ultimately building relationships," Susannah elaborated.
It's All Soul Food - Jami and Susannah's classes
Their own classes are centered around the concept of "cultivating a culture of life," in which they teach how to ferment and culture foods in a historical way that has sustained the test of time. They also give an important overall view of the current state of our food system, which frankly can be quite eye-opening. Their combined efforts result in a synergistic team.
While Susannah describes Jami as the visionary, Jami says that Susannah is brilliant when it comes to food and the theology of food. In the classes, "We teach how to ferment and culture foods and beverages." (Think probiotic foods like yogurt and drinks like Kombucha.) "We get pretty science nerdy with it all but want people to understand why these methods are beneficial to people's busy lives."
In addition to the science behind the food, the classes are just plain fun. The dynamic duo not only offer a lot of information and easy, affordable food skills to the classes, but they also bring a lot of laughs. The best part Jami and Susannah say is meeting new people and making connections with them about the ways that foods were made in our grandmothers' kitchens.
"Everyone that comes to learn always ends up bringing something to teach. Whether it's how their granddad canned his salsa or if it's Aunt Maddie's canned peaches cobbler, or a new twist on fermentation, it's all soul food," says Jami.
From Pasta, Pies and Chocolate and to Smoothies, Snacks and Sushi
In addition to Jami and Susannah's classes, the duo brings in a host of experienced chefs, most of whom are classically trained, to teach different classes. These include: handmade pasta, sushi, wine-pairing, Five Mother sauces, keto classes, smoothies, truffles, pies, snacks and more.
Best of all the classes are all kept at an affordable price, typically around $20 per person. Sometimes parent/child classes are offered for the price of one.
Be sure to check the line-up regularly, as classes are added on a weekly basis. What better way to improve your culinary skills, and perhaps even those of your children.
Part of the Arts District
CAC is currently housed in a temporary space at the front of Row & Co. across from the train depot while they are working on building the full picture for larger facilities. Their space is clean and bright, centered around a work table where class food prep takes place.
In the works is a 3,000 square foot teaching kitchen in the building next to their current location. The new space will enable them to host large food events, including pop-up restaurants, featured food trucks, nutrition conferences and cooking classes from their favorite local chefs.
A second exciting part of the vision includes the Culinary Prep Center (CPC), where small food businesses that need a state-inspected kitchen facility can do what is needed to get their food into Columbia's hands.
"We hope to make the CPC a 'commissary' of sorts, a support to the Farmer's Market, local farmers, butchers, bulk-foods ordering and a pickup location," says Susannah.
Jami and Susannah have some spaces still available for chefs and coaches to be part of the CAC team, so contact them with your culinary vision. They also want to hear about what you want to learn. As they say, "We want you to view our kitchen as your kitchen!"