First Summer in the Kitchen House & Garden

Our first Summer . . . in our inspiring new space . . . connecting kids with seed-to-table learning experiences to build a healthy future . . . has been blessed!

Field Trips ~ Home School Groups ~ Week-long Camps ~ Teacher Academy ~ Chef Night ~ Sunday Morning Gardening ~ Trevi Pasta Contest Winner ~ Private Events

We look forward to our first Fall and continuing to share the Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House & Culinary Garden with the Central Florida community.

Check out our calendar, especially October 16 and 27, and follow us on: FB/EdibleEducationExperience for the most current information.


Mentors' Table

A bare table with 40 chairs is stretched down the length of the covered veranda of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House & Culinary Garden. Tonight it is the Mentors’ Table, a fundraising event spearheaded by Chef Jaime McFadden’s PEAS Foundation to create a meaningful edible education experience not just for the 20 ticket buyers, but also 20 kids from New Image Youth Center.

The after-school center provides youth “a safe haven to dream,” says executive director Shanta Bartonstubbs who noticed that the Kitchen House & Garden is only three miles from the center’s location in the heart of Parramore. “We want to give our students programming that they wouldn’t normally have access to,” she said.

Together, the adults and kids not only receive instruction on how to properly set the table for a multi-course meal, they also learn from Gardener Brad Jones about boy and girl plants in the garden and the “party” going on in the compost heap; everyone grinds their own spice rub by hand with a mortar and pestle and learns from Chef Kevin Fonzo how to sear salmon with perfect cross-hatch marks.

Finally, it’s time to be seated and everyone enjoys a beautiful and delicious candle-lit meal served by the staff of Cuisiniers, the Orlando catering company owned by McFadden. The kids chatter about what they’ve experienced and conversation flies up and down and across the table. These kids have adventurous palates and try everything they are served; and even if they aren’t sure what to do with the cloth napkin, their manners are impeccable. Their enthusiasm is off the chart!

PEAS is a non-profit organization that McFadden co-founded seven years ago with George Arredondo with the mission of Producing Eating Alternatives Simply. In other words, to feed hungry people healthy food.



McFadden’s Cuisiniers is often asked to donate food for fundraisers. McFadden has a big heart, especially when it comes to kids, and he said yes when asked to help put on a tea at New Image Youth Center in Parramore. Once his teamed learned more about the after-school center that has, since 2004, had 21 teens graduate from high school, 11 who are now in college, and one who is a PhD student at Harvard, “they told me we should do a PEAS fundraiser for them,” said McFadden.

“I never just want to put on a fundraiser without an educational component,” said McFadden. A couple weeks later, Edible Education Experience, a like-minded non-profit in its start-up phase of operating the Kitchen House had opened. McFadden knew EdibleEdExp needed help, as well, so he offered to teach a class and quickly came up with this idea, to bring in the kids, too.

“New Image really defines why we created PEAS,” said McFadden. “We didn’t have one specific group in mind. But our target was producing simple alternatives for eating simply for the birth through the 8th grade age group. When I met Shanta and the kids, I knew we had a good fit.”

By all measurements, the first Mentors’ Table was a huge success. “There was a perception of value when guests walked away,” said McFadden. “They felt they’d made a difference in this child’s life, they got dinner for two, they were introduced to the Kitchen House, and it all felt really, really important.” “In this world today, if you put forth a little extra effort and attention to detail, it pays off in the long run.

In light of McFadden’s generous heart, the Edible Education Experience team elected to share the evening’s proceeds with NIYC in the amount of $250.

This new initiative of PEAS, EdibleEdExp and NIYC has really got people abuzz, looking forward to the next Mentors’ Table. If interested in being made aware of a possible Mentors’ Table 2.0, visit and subscribe by providing your email.


Written by Megan Padilla

Beneficiary Spotlight: Grand Opening of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House & Culinary Garden

A project in the making since 2014, the Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House & Culinary Garden officially opened its doors at Orlando Junior Academy in the College Park neighborhood of Orlando.

The 3,500-square-foot commercial kitchen and garden was unveiled to a celebratory audience of community members and media who have patiently awaited the arrival of the one-of-a-kind, $1.2 million facility.

The Emeril Lagasse Foundation granted $250,000 toward the building with the vision of creating a space where chefs, teachers and students can successfully meld cooking and gardening lessons with school curriculum. The facility and garden will also be used for school field trips, cooking classes for adults and families and Sunday gardening for the community.

Notable speakers at the grand opening event included Chef Emeril Lagasse, Mayor Buddy Dyer and Chef Kevin Fonzo who spoke to the positive impact the facility will make within the community and on its students. Orlando Junior Academy eighth-graders had the honor of cutting the ribbon for eager guests to enter and tour the new property.

“My wife Alden and I are so proud to be a part of this project and look forward to seeing the impact it will have on children’s lives for years to come. We are thankful for the support of Orlando Junior Academy, our dedicated board, donors and local community partners who have played a key role in bringing the Foundation’s vision to life through this initiative,” said Lagasse.

In addition to its numerous state-of-the-art features, the Kitchen House is also an eco-friendly building, with solar panels for nighttime lighting, an energy efficient air conditioner and a curtain wall with tinted windows. A metal roof was also designed to funnel rainwater into cisterns, creating a natural irrigation system for the garden.

“The Kitchen House project is a shining example of the types of innovative community efforts that are transforming our City's culture for the better, engaging all our residents through unique and edible education experiences to live healthier, more prosperous, and sustainable lives,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “We're delighted and grateful to see Emeril Lagasse's Foundation choose Orlando to develop this unique model that combines urban agriculture and culinary education for all ages, an initiative that furthers our efforts in providing more environmentally-friendly lifestyles for residents in Orlando.”

The Kitchen House will support the Edible Education Experience, a 501(c)3 non-profit which aims to connect kids with seed-to-table, garden-to-classroom learning experiences to build a healthy future.

The Emeril Lagasse Foundation is honored to have taken part in this inspiring community effort and proud to have donated the crucial funds needed to see this project come to life. Learn how you can donate or support Emeril Lagasse Foundation’s mission by visiting our Get Involved page.

About Emeril Lagasse Foundation:

Founded in 2002 by Chef Emeril Lagasse and his wife Alden, Emeril Lagasse Foundation is a 501c(3) public charity headquartered in New Orleans. The Foundation’s mission is to create opportunities to inspire, mentor and enable youth to reach their full potential through culinary, nutrition and arts education. Since its inception, Emeril Lagasse Foundation has granted more than $8 million to children’s charities to support culinary, nutrition and arts programs. To learn more about the Foundation and its beneficiaries, visit, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Wrapping up Edible Ed at OJA with Iron Chef Competition


On March 3, Orlando Junior Academy students wrapped up their Edible Education classes for the year with some fierce competition! Grades 6-8 competed in groups against their classmates for bragging rights and a catered lunch at our Kitchen House by K Restaurant.

6th Grade judges included: The owner of Olde Hearth Bread company Shannon Talty, the owner of Femme Du Fromage Cheese Shop Tonda Corrente Nazario, Leslie Ahonkhai of The Orange County Health Department, and William Blake, co-owner of The Rusty Spoon. The focus of their cooking classes this year has been about keeping their food safe while learning about the science of cooking. Guest judge Leslie kept students on their toes by asking them what precautions they were taking to ensure the safety and cleanliness of their food and workstation. The Iron Chef mystery bag was filled with milk and lemons to make ricotta cheese, tomatoes, basil, and fresh Olde Hearth Bread. The pressure was on as students made homemade cheese with Tonda of Femme Du Fromage Cheese Shop as a judge! The students impressed our judges by making fresh ricotta toast topped with bruschetta all within 30 minutes!

7th Grade Judges included: Food Writer for the Orlando Sentinel Lauren Delgado, Food Writer for Orlando Magazine Joseph Hayes, Chef/Owner of Ravenous Pig Julie Petrakis and The Teen Gourmet Food Blogger, Noah Michaud. This year's lessons were focused around literacy so having such distinguished Orlando food writers as judges was such a treat for us. The seventh graders completed a writing project this year about the Salt of the Earth and two students were asked to read their work. Evelyn and John read their fantastic essays with approval from our guest writer judges. The mystery bags for seventh grade included a recipe for Mediterranean quinoa salad and bean burgers with chipotle mayo.

8th Grade Judges Included: Food writer for Orlando Weekly Fayaiz Kara, Chef Owner of SOCO and Baoery Greg Richie, and our very own Chef Sarah Cahill. The 8th graders really impressed the judges by making fresh pasta and salad from our garden in 30 minutes! The mystery bags included recipes for pesto pasta and cacio e pepe. The criteria for judging was not only based on taste but teamwork, cleanliness, presentation, and planning.  The winning team did a fantastic job at making a delicious meal, keeping their workstation clean and most importantly, working as a team.

We are so proud of all of our Iron Chef contestants! They all worked extremely hard and were so enthusiastic. We are very thankful to our wonderful judges who volunteered their time and expertise. We would also like to thank Whole Foods Market for sponsoring our ingredients! What a truly amazing way to wrap up a fun year of learning!

 A 6th Grade team with their final product: homemade ricotta toasts with tomato and basil

A 6th Grade team with their final product: homemade ricotta toasts with tomato and basil

 A 7th Grade team with their bean burgers awaiting comments from the judges   

A 7th Grade team with their bean burgers awaiting comments from the judges


 The winning 8th grade team with Chef Instructors Kevin Fonzo and Allyson Schurig

The winning 8th grade team with Chef Instructors Kevin Fonzo and Allyson Schurig

 Our Iron Chef mystery bags filled with donated ingredients. Thank you Whole Foods Market!

Our Iron Chef mystery bags filled with donated ingredients. Thank you Whole Foods Market!

Field Trip & Empathy Tour Connects Community

The 3rd annual School Garden Field Trip & Empathy Tour occurred in December on a spectacular Orlando day with an exciting group of twenty community folk!

The group met at the construction site of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House & Culinary Garden where they were greeted with hot lemon-grass tea from the garden and caught the vision of what’s to come.

First stop, was a short-distance to Morning Star Catholic School to be welcomed by Mary Kelly, Director of Community Partnerships/Special Events. This College Park gem serves students with special needs. The group toured the demonstration kitchen, heard about the exciting new Center for Transition, greeted students and teachers, then took in the beautifully situated garden.

Adam Wright of Seed2Source was on hand to walk through the garden philosophy and point out interesting elements. The group resonated with the practice of each student having their own seedling to water and care for that hung from the fence using up-cycled milk cartons—it seemed right that every child have something to call their own and be proud of. Morning Star Board Member, Sarah Stack, also pointed out that students harvest from their garden and use their kitchen daily where older students teach the younger. 

Next stop, Ocoee High School. All of a sudden, our small group grew to a large group of OCPS administration and teachers, 4Rivers Foundation team, UF/IFAS reps, and a host of high schoolers so proud of their green house, hydroponics and raised-bed gardens. We applaud the good work coming together through a combined community effort with special recognition to Peter Jordan, Ag Science Teacher, who’s purpose for his students is to “provide for the present without jeopardizing the future.”

Third stop, Dommerick Elementary. Met by teacher Linda Taconis and a super-volunteer parent. It was a joy to visit this school garden, feel the cool breeze from off the nearby pond and hear how gardening is integrated with Literacy along with their Family Garden Days. The field trip group also relaxed on campus in the shade while enjoying fresh salad and walking-tacos from the OCPS Food Truck hosted by Jamila Adams, Food & Nutritional Services.

Final stop, Healthy Eatonville Place where Deandre Kemp, Research Assistant, walked the group through the clinic that promotes healthy living to curb diabetes. The facility, which offers educational programs and counseling, mostly for free, doubles as a research center dedicated to finding better ways to prevent the disease. This healthy place serves Eatonville, an important pillar in the community, and is made possible through collaboration with Florida HospitalHealthy Central Florida and Winter Park Foundation. The group also came together in the clinic’s classroom for reflection of the day.

Adonna Andino, one of two students in the group and an 8th Grader at Orlando Junior Academy, observed and astutely summarized, “Although all the garden programs were different from my school’s, they all have the same goal of educating children about health and where food comes from.”

Evelyn Nielsen, 7th Grader at OJA also reflected in an essay where she expressed “tons” of thanks for being invited and that she “had a blast touring the schools and getting feedback from others to help her school’s garden succeed!” Her big take-away from the day—“Gardening is key to a healthy life and even bigger, a green path to a healthy future.”

Upon return to the Kitchen House & Garden the field trippers were treated to a bottle of cold-pressed juice from Grounding Roots. Thank you to Florida Hospital Community Impact and Yamile Luna’s team for sponsoring this outing that produced so many meaningful connections.

Reader, if you’ve been inspired and wish to support more of this important work, please contact Janice Banks, Executive Director at


Noble Inc. Works and Dines amidst Construction

The afternoon of January 24, found twenty-seven Noble Inc. employees carefully walking onto our construction site, lead by their CEO Jeff Baker, for a team-building edible education experience.

Noble had initially contacted EdibleEdExp to book a seed-to-table experience but when they learned the Kitchen House wasn't open yet, they offered to perform community service to help the project along. The group received a tour of the nearly completed Kitchen House & Garden then got to work trimming Ginger plants along the south property line, layering compost for a new garden plot, trimming bamboo for trellises and setting up for dinner.

The work along the property line came just in time and made it possible for the next-day install of a new 6-ft board-on-board fence by All Star Fencing. In addition, the large Ginger leaves were carried to the new garden plot and became the first layer of healthy soil. The final layer of soil was added as well, via wheelbarrow loads of Mushroom Compost.

Noble’s engineers, who's work is designing medical educational devices, handled the bamboo trellis-building with style and precision and made way for some high-reaching Brandywine Heirloom Tomatoes, in the near future. 

Meanwhile, tables were set and chairs hauled in for a beautiful evening’s dinner on the veranda over-looking the robust winter garden. At this point, the Noble team appeared relaxed, content and enjoying each other's company. Had we been hooked up to electricity, everyone could’ve stayed longer.

The Baked Potato & Chili Bar was catered by Mary Sukow and included Kale and Garlic Chives fresh-cut from the garden. One Noble employee experienced her first ever pulling of carrots from the ground and was SO proud to prep and add this crunchy goodness to the evening’s salad.

Noble’s free labor and generous donation made possible the new fence which is in response to our Conditional Use Permit along with happy conversations with our adjacent neighbors. Thank you to the wonderful Noble Inc. team, here in Orlando, who strives to make an impact rather than merely make an impression—yet, as far as Garden Coordinator Brad Jones is concerned, they accomplished both! 

Thank you also to Rob Smith of E2Homes and Jose Venegas of Midtown Architectural Studio for helping with the tours and to Chef Sarah Cahill and Richard & Claudia Bishop for volunteering alongside the teams. 

Giving Thanks

During this season of Thanksgiving, we want to say “THANK YOU” to all our EdibleEdExp supporters . . . 

To our over 50 volunteers and 260+ website subscribers, we are grateful. To our teachers and chefs in the classroom and gardeners who helped grow our veggies, we couldn’t do it without you. To our construction partners and generous donors, we are thankful beyond measure. To our Advisory Committee and Board Members, we very much appreciate your leadership!

Chef Night with Joe Rees

Chef Joe Rees, co-owner of The Strand, charmed and inspired at November’s Chef Night. Roasted root veggies and kale salad with warm shallot dressing and seasoned pecans were a delicious highlight. The baked grouper with white wine & butter sauce were the perfect pairing and the lemon-thyme dessert bar, sent over by Mrs. Rees, was the final hit of the evening.

It was a pleasure getting to know Chef Rees who moved from up north to make his home in Orlando and we learned that his early inspiration for cooking came from pure hunger, as most growing boys can relate. The evening was made even more enjoyable by easy conversation, spending time with family, making new friends, and being inspired to cook with fresh garden ingredients.

THANK YOU,” Chefs Joe and Alda for giving back to your community and for supporting fresh local ingredients in your fine cooking. Everyone should go to The Strand, their weekend brunch is amazing and their retro television is fun to watch.