By Lori Wysong
Elm Staff Writer
A project that has been developing for years will finally come to fruition in October. The Blue Heron Café in Chestertown on Canon Street was recently purchased by Chair of the Board of Visitors and Governors Larry Culp, and it will begin renovations to become the home base of the Eastern Shore Food Lab, according to a release from the College. The Blue Heron will remain up through October 2017.
The Food Lab has been something Associate Professor of Anthropology Dr. Bill Schindler envisioned since he arrived on campus 10 years ago. The hope is that the WC ESFL will encourage students and community members to view their food from an entirely new perspective.
The lab will incorporate historic methods of growing and preparing food to create the most nutritious and environmentally sustainable cuisine possible. The ESFL will be the first of its kind on the Eastern Shore, and will draw heavily from the surrounding area.
“The Eastern Shore Food Lab will be focused on terroir — the relationship between sense of place and food. In addition to resources, climate, soil conditions, and microflora, it will celebrate the people, the history and the tradition of Chestertown and the surrounding environment,” Dr. Schindler said.
This emphasis on the unique food grown in Chestertown will be fused with international influences. Dr. Schindler is currently on sabbatical in Ireland studying with Michelin Star-rated chefs, and is learning about skills such as foraging, butchering, and cheese-making.
“I will bring everything I learn from all of this research and professional development back to the Food Lab and share it all with WC students, faculty and staff, and the larger Chestertown community,” he said.
He has already partnered with organizations such as the UCD Center for Experimental Archaeology and ODAIOS Foods to make the ESFL a part of a larger network, and believes that, “it will become an international center for this kind of work, and attract people from all over the world to see what we are doing and to bring their expertise so we can learn even more.”
WC students will have the opportunity to intern, volunteer, take courses, or just stop by and cook a meal at the ESFL once it is up and running.
The Food Lab will not be completed until next year, but students interested in its mission can get involved right now.
Shane Brill, the College’s web and multimedia developer, also advises the Campus Garden Club. He is a specialist in permaculture, a system that attempts to improve the quality of life on this planet through behaviors such as producing more that is consumed.
“A lot of my work with permaculture and the Campus Garden has dovetailed with what Bill Schindler has been doing with his anthropological research,” he said.
This fall, the Garden Club will host events and work to produce foods in an innovative and ecologically mindful way.
“I hope to see students and community members involved in a really exciting way that gets them connected to the natural world. I think the Food Lab has a tremendous capacity to influence our culture and the way we think about food,” he said.
For more information on the ESFL, www.washcoll.edu/ESFL.