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Groups to open kitchen in February

Dec. 25, 2009 @ 10:43 PM

HUNTINGTON -- The cameras are gone, but work at Jamie's Kitchen on 3rd Avenue is reaching a feverish pitch.

The made-for-television kitchen across from Pullman Square has a long way to go to become the one-stop-shop for healthful cooking that celebrity chef Jamie Oliver envisioned. Oliver invaded Huntington this past fall to film an unscripted television series about improving the area's eating habits.

But the fundamental pieces are falling into place. Ebenezer Medical Outreach, a free health clinic in Fairfield West, has agreed to run Jamie's Kitchen, now renamed Huntington's Kitchen. Cabell Huntington Hospital donated $50,000 that Ebenezer will use for rent and utilities. Oliver left behind detailed instructions for a 10-week cooking course. And U.S. Food Service will give the kitchen all of the food and cleaning supplies it needs for one year.

"This is truly a leap of faith, and I believe it's something we are supposed to do," says Yvonne Jones, executive director of Ebenezer Medical Outreach. "Lots of people have trouble with that philosophy, but it's how we've always operated at Ebenezer."

Oliver established the kitchen as a springboard for people to learn how to cook from scratch. It was modeled after the food information centers that he opened in his native England for another reality television series called "Ministry of Food."

Jones and Ashley Thompson, Ebenezer's program director, know they don't have much time to prepare the kitchen to catch the wave of interest that they anticipate will occur when "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" debuts on ABC this winter. The network has not announced when the show will air, but officials with the show have speculated it will start sometime in February.

"I'm getting e-mails daily from people who live in the surrounding states, and I've gotten a few as far away as California," Thompson said. "When the show airs, we want to make sure the kitchen is ready to go so this positive story about Huntington gets told."

Thompson said officials with the show have told her ABC will air a preview of its winter lineup on Jan. 12. "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" will be among the shows highlighted, she said.

Ebenezer's goal is to have the kitchen ready by then so it can offer a few classes a week, Thompson said. The class offerings will increase to as many as four per day as the show's debut nears, Jones said. As many as 12 people will be able to enroll in each class.

But there's a laundry list of things that need to be done to the space before it can operate as a full-time kitchen, Jones said. After filming stopped, the Cabell-Huntington Health Department inspected the kitchen.

"The health department knew it was a temporary thing during filming, so they let certain things slide," she said. "These things are now going to be requirements if we're going to operate as a full-time kitchen."

The kitchen needs funding for ovens, a commercial dishwasher and a larger refrigeration system, Jones said. Food used in the kitchen during the filming of the show had to be stored in a refrigeration system at the old Dos Amigos restaurant space at Pullman Square.

It also needs funding to pay a kitchen manager and cooking instructor, the only full-time positions that will be offered at the kitchen, Jones said. It will use a dietitian on a part-time basis and has several offers from volunteers willing to help with other duties, she said.

Ebenezer will ask for a $10 donation for each weekly class, which amounts to $100 for the 10-week course, Jones said.

"It's all about making this kitchen accessible," she said. "If a single mom is on food stamps and needs to learn how to prepare healthy meals on a budget, she'll be hard-pressed to spend more than $10 a week. And if she doesn't have $10 a week, we'll take whatever amount works within her budget."

Jones sees the kitchen as a catalyst for other initiatives that foster healthy lifestyles in the Tri-State. She wants to create a "Healthy Huntington" advisory board that would coordinate with the kitchen and sponsor events. She also sees the kitchen expanding its role over time by offering shopping excursions to grocery stores to show people how to shop for healthful food on a budget.

"I think bringing healthy lifestyles into this re-creation of Huntington that so many people are now involved in is absolutely critical," Jones said. "You don't typically think of an Appalachian city working toward being healthier. We want to take it a step further and show the country we can be the leader."



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