Chartwells K12 staff, including regional chefs Josh Perkins and RJ Harvey, designed the mobile teaching kitchen in partnership with a Charlotte, N.C.-based customization company that’s worked with restaurants, social media brands, breweries and sports teams. Though the container itself is quite small—80 square feet, to be exact—three of its four sides open up to maximize viewing and demo space. Here’s a look at some key elements.
Relatable kitchen setup
To increase students’ comfort in the space, equipment was modeled after a typical home kitchen: range, microwave, freezer, refrigerator, pantry, cabinet and sinks. “Our main principle was that we wanted to build something that would be relatable to a home kitchen,” Perkins says. “It’s not for chefs to show off; it’s for chefs to teach something useful.” Two points of differentiation are the five induction burners (chosen to minimize the complications of propane) and an under-counter refrigerator (which maximizes working surfaces). A separate hand-washing sink lets students wash up without monopolizing the main food prep sink.
Expandable teaching tables
The kitchen features three stainless steel tables along its exterior sides that fold up to create student workspace for hands-on participation with food prep, such as using kid-safe cutting tools and boards. “We planned to accommodate up to 30 students,” Perkins says. “I think 15 students working at a cutting board at once could happen, and then you could rotate out.”
Easy entrance, exit
The ability to move freely between the kitchen space and the teaching tables around the exterior was important, Perkins says. “The kitchen is a horseshoe shape and, at the rear, you can exit in either direction off a very low step,” he says. “You can easily step down to the teaching tables and be able to get up close to a student with a cutting board and a knife.”
Display and replay
The kitchen is equipped with four display monitors to show close-up video feeds of the cooking action. “We have these fold-out panels that can be used as dry erase so we can relay a lot of diet information,” Perkins says. “There’s a back wall with a full AV system and wireless PA of the audience. All of this was built to accommodate ... a very big close-up teaching situation, or [being] outdoors.” The video equipment also allows Chartwells K12 to record lessons to replay in the future for remote education, Saidel says.