Community House boasts green demo kitchen

Rosso Family Foundation underwrites costs

By: Erin McClary | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published August 10, 2011

 Community House cooking instructor chef Pam Gustairs shows a sold-out class Aug. 3 how to make corn chowder. Gustairs’ “Fast, Fresh, Easy Summer Recipes” course at The Community House is one of the first to utilize the nonprofit’s new demonstration kitchen.

Community House cooking instructor chef Pam Gustairs shows a sold-out class Aug. 3 how to make corn chowder. Gustairs’ “Fast, Fresh, Easy Summer Recipes” course at The Community House is one of the first to utilize the nonprofit’s new demonstration kitchen.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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BIRMINGHAM — The Community House is finally caught up with its cooking classes.

The Birmingham nonprofit, well known around town for its variety of enrichment programs, will dedicate its new demonstration kitchen, dubbed Carol’s Kitchen, in memory of Carol Rosso, a Community House supporter with a love for cooking, later this month.

The state-of-the-art kitchen was designed and renovated with recycled materials and energy-efficient appliances. It looks pretty, too. Most importantly, though, said Community House Program Director Peggy Kerr, it will accommodate ever-changing trends in cooking.

Classes centered around different types of cuisine have become a mainstay at The Community House. “And we’ve kept up with the trends: from gluten-free cooking to vegan and raw foods,” said Kerr. “We’re meeting the needs of different lifestyles.”

This fall, with the help of the new kitchen, The Community House is offering 29 different cooking classes — a record for the organization. They’ve got the programming, and now there’s an up-to-date kitchen to go with it.

“It’s the most contemporary part of our building,” said Kerr.

Talk of updating the demonstration kitchen began just more than a year ago. Renovations started this spring and wrapped up shortly thereafter. The dedication is taking place 5:30-7 p.m. Aug. 31 at The Community House, located at 380 S. Bates St., in Birmingham. The public is invited to the open house reception.

The Rosso Family Foundation, which also donated funding for The Community House’s library, underwrote costs for the new kitchen. Providing funding for a green concept, said Community House Director Deborah Schrot, was something the family was happy to do.

“We’ve been so fortunate with this donation,” said Schrot, adding that the Rosso family has a love for the environment. “It only seemed natural that they’d want to improve our kitchen with green concepts.”

She said it’s relationships like the one The Community House has with families like the Rossos that make the nonprofit what it is. Without donations like the demo kitchen, she said, The Community House would not be able to serve the community as well as it does.

“These were much-needed improvements,” said Schrot. “The students can actually see more of the kitchen … and aside from seeing the new kitchen, they’ll be learning about the new technology,” like the kitchen’s induction stovetop.

With the new appliances being so energy efficient, The Community House is also hoping to save money on utilities.

That’s part of the idea, said Janice Steinhardt, owner of MDG/The Green Kitchen Project, who donated the design and resources for the kitchen with partner Gary Fried. Local companies such as EuroCraft Interior in Sterling Heights also helped keep the project affordable.

“I think I suggested something green, and they liked that idea,” she said. “When I saw the space, I tried to understand the function of what we were doing: it’s a teaching kitchen, used by many people.”

So she got together with a group of Community House cooking instructors, gathered ideas and took them shopping.

“We tried to design a kitchen around function, that was green and that looked good,” she said.

Community House officials think she nailed it.

Recycled glass was used for the countertops and backsplash, and formaldehyde-free cabinets were installed. There are no windows in the demo kitchen, so she chose white to brighten things up. LED lights, movable storage, taller cabinets, a reused floor — which saved on landfill waste — and the new appliances make the green kitchen live up to its impression.

“We decided it would be our pleasure to donate our design time to the project,” said Steinhardt. “We knew they were on a budget and we thought it would serve the community well. It was very important to me that we do green … even though it’s 10-15 percent more (money). … And we tried to design a kitchen that would be meaningful in another 10-25 years so they don’t have to redo it again.

“Our goal was to serve the many people that use that kitchen,” she continued. “It just seemed like the right thing to do.”

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