17 Mar Cooking Up a New Look
Chanlyut kitchen upgrade better prepares residents for work and life
Chanlyut Nutrition Coordinator Thomas Andrade can make just about anything on a grill. In addition to the usual burgers and dogs, he can whip up soups, pies, and chow mien.
It’s a good thing, too. This winter, a gas grill, a Traeger smoker, and three tubs for washing dishes were all the Thomas had to work with while the Chanlyut kitchen underwent a major remodel.
Before the Remodel
As CITC’s substance use residential program, which supports men and women while they build their life skills and maintain sobriety, the Chanlyut program is structured as a community. So it’s no surprise that the Chanlyut building has a homey feel: There’s a common area with a sofa, bedrooms, and a yard outside.
The kitchen felt homey, too. Two typical gas kitchen ranges, a toaster oven, a refrigerator like the one you have in your own home—these were the tools Thomas had to work with, not only to feed up to 14 residents but to offer cooking instruction, as well.
“Our ancient freezers we’ve been using, and other items that were donated to the program, were a blessing and served us for many years,” said Daniel Perkins, Chanlyut’s program manager. “We’ve come to a place, though, where we’re able to upgrade the kitchen and have it meet the needs of our participants.”
A Commercial Kitchen Upgrade
Demolition of Chanlyut’s existing kitchen began in August. The space was completely gutted before contractors installed a nonslip floor and stainless steel walls. Steel shelving (not yet installed) will replace the wooden wall-mounted cabinets, while the laminate countertops and lower cabinetry have been exchanged for wide, stainless steel countertops that connect the prep, cooking, and washing areas.
The cooking space features Thomas’s favorite feature: a new six-burner stove with an open griddle and a double oven. The old two-basin sink is gone; in its place, separate hand-washing and food-prep sinks have been installed, as well as a commercial dish washer.
The center of the kitchen now features a large prep table that doubles as storage for pots, pans, mixing bowls, and kitchen utensils.
“We redesigned everything to fit a better workflow that transitions through the kitchen in a more efficient way,” Daniel explained. “Now it has the feel of a commercial kitchen, rather than a residential one.”
The newly renovated kitchen supports Chanlyut’s mission to help men and women increase life skills as they maintain sobriety in their lives. Residents work to obtain a food handlers card and are then assigned roles in the kitchen; as they assist with food prep, cooking, and cleaning, they’re gaining experience that can prepare them for jobs in the food service industry.
“The environment contributes a lot into treating the space more professionally and learning those professional skills,” Thomas said. “It’s more tangible to transfer those skills when you’re starting out in a kitchen that looks and feels commercial.”
Thomas emphasizes nutrition and cutting down on waste as he teaches residents how to meal-plan, how to use leftovers from one meal to create another, and how to save money by making dishes from scratch, rather than buying more expensive, pre-packaged items.
While a significant number of individuals who graduate from the Chanlyut program will go on to gain employment in food services, even those who don’t can benefit from the lessons learned in the remodeled kitchen.
“Whether they apply these skills in jobs or in their personal lives, it gives them one more step toward successfully living an independent, sober life,” Daniel reflected.
Thomas also incorporates cultural recipes into the regular meal rotation at Chanlyut. The residence cohosts a monthly cultural potluck with the Ernie Turner Center, CITC’s residential treatment center in Eklutna. Participants enjoy dishes from Alaska Native culture, but also get to try items derived from the other cultures represented by whomever is living at Chanlyut.
“We’ve got some Caribbean people here now, so that’s fun,” Thomas said. “Sharing food is such a great way to be creative, learn a little, and bring people together.”
The renovation also represents several CITC teams coming together, as CITC’s Grants team secured funding for the upgrade and the organization’s Facilities department served as the project manager.