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"I am a fourth year Environmental Design student at the University of Manitoba, focusing my studies in Landscape and Urbanism. Originally from a little town in the middle of nowhere, BC, I moved to Winnipeg 5 years ago to pursue design. After a brief hiatus studying abroad in Denmark, I returned to Canada to finish my studies. I learned about Design Quarter a few months ago while searching for design non-profits in Winnipeg. I really like what they are trying to achieve here in the city, so I reached out to Zephyra and began volunteering in July. It’s been a great opportunity, and I’m having a lot of fun doing it!" - Madeleine Dafoe, Environmental Design Student Blogger

"A COMMUNITY OF LOCAL FOOD" BY MADELEINE DAFOE

Walking through downtown Winnipeg, you become surrounded by old brick, and new glass. The layers of downtown emerge as a quilt with the community around acting as the threads. Small businesses are an integral part of this. They create a draw that will help to revitalize and renew these spaces. Design Quarter Winnipeg is here to help support that growth. 

For eons, food and drink has brought human beings together and created a sense of community. We spoke to three of our members who are currently using this longstanding tradition to reach out to the larger community of Winnipeg.

PARLOUR COFFEE. Parlour coffee is a small, warm, coffee shop nestled between the Woodbine Hotel and Berns + Black Salon. Long rows of bar top seating are bathed in the natural midday light. Art frames the coffee bar and natural materials create a cozy welcoming feeling. This is where I met with Nils Vik, the owner of Parlour. 

Everything about the coffee shop is inviting and friendly. The seating and the absence of wifi create an atmosphere of chance encounters. It’s romantic and nostalgic; this idea that sitting next to a stranger could spark into something more, and reminds us of something we may be missing in our modern lives. With Parlour, Nils says they always wanted to be supportive of the local community. The baking is sourced from local bakeries; Oh Doughnuts, Tall Grass Prairie and Beet Happening, which are local staples to the inhabitants of the area. The coffee served at Parlour comes from beans roasted at Dogwood Coffee just down the street. This focus on interactions between local businesses helps to promote the strong growth of Winnipeg’s downtown core.

Nils tells me about other ways in which Parlour reaches out to the surrounding community besides making exceptional coffee, such as a weekly cycling club that Parlour hosts every Sunday. Nils says they are currently trying to expand and add programming to this bike club, and Parlour also offers bike race viewings when the opportunity presents itself. Rotating art shows bring art work to the public and help to promote and support local up-and-coming artists, as well as those who are more established. This summer, Parlour partnered with Jazz Fest to host lunchtime shows, which led to the surprising discovery of some fantastic acoustics within the small space, offering the possibility for similar events in the future. You can imagine the space with only a crowd of ten or so needed to feel full and cozy, everyone sipping a coffee, wrapped together in the sound of the music flowing through the space. 

All in all, Nils says they just feel very honoured to still be serving the area after 6 years. I think this really speaks to their presence in the community, and the strong connections they have nurtured within Winnipeg.

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JANE'S RESTAURANT + THE CULINARY EXCHANGE. Karen McDonald met with me in the bustling dining hall of the Culinary Exchange, located in Red River College’s downtown campus. Through the wall of windows, historic buildings can be seen bordering Old Market Square. The crisp fall air has turned the leaves, and people bustle about, bundled warmly in their winter coats. 

This dining hall can be seen packed with students, faculty, and other locals at lunchtime. The atmosphere is lively. Karen tells me that this community really blossomed after their move from the Notre Dame campus further north to their current downtown location. “Our students always ran cafeterias, as they do here in the Exchange. They always ran fine dining restaurants such as Jane’s [at] the Notre Dame campus, but [in] the community at large, the involvement was very limited to the reservations at night.” The new campus allows them to interact in more diverse ways with the surrounding community. An example of this is one lab where the instructor takes their students to Siloam Mission to cook breakfast and lunch for that day. Karen also tells me the story of an old man who became a regular at the Culinary Exchange. This man would come to the Culinary Exchange every morning to eat his breakfast. Over the years he developed relationships with the students and instructors there. When he passed, he willed the Culinary Exchange and Jane’s Restaurant $3000, which they put towards new equipment for the students. This really demonstrates the lasting and reciprocal legacy that the community and Jane’s Restaurant/the Culinary Exchange have on each other.

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It is early morning in the Culinary Exchange. A term 2 lab is cooking breakfast, where they will be joined in the kitchen at lunch by the term 4 students who will prepare a global menu. Just down the hallway in Jane’s Restaurant, the culinary and hospitality students work together to prepare and serve both lunch and dinner menus. All serving and cooking is for class credit, a way to help the students gain hands on experience before moving out into the workforce. Although the Culinary Exchange and Jane’s both offer undeniably good food and service, Karen is adamant that in her mind these spaces are first a classroom, then a restaurant. They are spaces of learning, which you can see through the design. The set up of both the Culinary Exchange and Jane’s aid in their connection to the broader community. Both are equipped with open kitchens allowing the patrons to view the students as they prepare meals, and by removing this barrier between the kitchen and the restaurant a connection is formed between the students and the public, allowing them to learn from one another. 

The school is part of a growing network of restaurants and eateries popping up around Winnipeg. Many of these new establishments are former graduates of the culinary program at Red River. The outreach of Jane’s and the Culinary Exchange is slowly trickling further and further out into the community. Nearly 50 percent of the faculty at the school are alumni, as are the CO-OP partners of the culinary and hospitality programs, like Clementine, Segovia, and The Mitchell Block. In fact, the faculty just recently hosted their first alumni dinner. It was put on by volunteer faculty, and alumni came to cook with the students. The connections that the school keeps with it’s former graduates are important to bolster the culinary community of Winnipeg, and to create opportunities for students within the program.

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As for the term 'Culinary Exchange' itself, Karen says it is a play on the Exchange District, but also speaks to the open concept kitchens and the exchange and discourse happening both between students and instructors, and within the dining hall area. This mixture of students and public, market and dining hall, classroom and restaurant, allows for a holistic approach to teaching and gives the public insight into the goings-on of the kitchen. By having these destinations and community oriented spaces within downtown Winnipeg, Karen hopes that people may reconsider their presumptions about Winnipeg’s downtown, and come explore all that the area has to offer.

 

THE COMMON. Situated between the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, The Forks has been a gathering place for centuries. According to The Forks website, the market used to be horse stables for two competing rail yards until the 1900s when it was joined together by bridges and a courtyard. Nowadays, The Forks is home to a busy market packed with local vendors and restaurants. On the ground floor you can find food from almost anywhere, while the second floor offers local retail. I spoke with Chrystle McIntosh about the newly opened, 'The Common', in the central dinning hall of the first floor. 

When you enter The Forks Market, you find yourself weaving through stalls filled with brightly coloured vegetables and treats. Smells of different foods mix into a unique and inviting aroma, and the sound of cutlery clinking rises over chatter. In the main dining hall area, long, wooden tables are set in rows with leaves that flip up or down at each end allowing visitors the freedom to lengthen or detach their table. Large, metal lighting fixtures hang down from the ceiling framing the area with a warm glow. This new area, called The Common, came as a response to a perceived lack of programing on the first floor. Chrystle says that they noticed “people coming on site, but we weren’t quite hitting the mark with having [amenities] inside the market… that were keeping people here. So, people were coming to use our site outside, but they weren’t necessarily coming into the market because we just didn’t have things that would enhance the whole guest experience.” It was decided that the entire first floor should be licensed, and a new communal bar and dinning hall should be created, along with further renovations. In order to design this new area, Chrystle and her colleagues travelled to different dining halls around the world to experience what created the atmosphere that they wanted here in Winnipeg. From this research came the idea of a community harvest table - a long, communal table that would bring strangers together over food and drink. This type of seating emphasizes the multiculturalism of The Forks and the melting pot of Canada by creating a space where different foods, people, and traditions come together equally.

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The Forks alone is the recipient of around 4 million visitors a year making it the biggest tourist draw in Manitoba. With the introduction of The Common, people are now coming just to experience this unique, communal place that has been created. The Common hosts board game nights on Wednesdays in the spring, which encourages different groups of people to come together to play. Chrystle says that one of her favourite things to do is to go up to the balconies on the second floor and just watch these interactions and connections play out below, as people eat together, drink together, play together, and the lines between cliques slowly fade.

The Forks has always been a place that supports local, Chrystle tells me. These local relationships are very important to their identity and their goals. The Common embodies this aspiration with nearly all of their products, from their aprons, to their tables, to their menu, coming from local sources. Chrystle says it's nice to see that by using locally-made products at The Common, they provide valuable advertisement for these businesses. When Visitors enquire about these products Chrystle says, “it’s just so great to be able to share that story with them, and to let them know you can actually [find] this here in Winnipeg!”

By bringing diverse people, foods, and stories together, and by supporting the small, local businesses of Winnipeg, The Common is helping to foster a strong community within The Forks and downtown Winnipeg. Chrystle says they are “creating a new idea of what sharing a space looks like.”