If you are a visitor of the Saturday Montclair Farmers’ Market, you will have likely come across the beautiful colors and delicious smells and tastes of Adventure Kitchen. The Montclair organization, founded by Lynley Jones, provides market attendees with tasty samples, refreshing ice pops, and easy recipes. But, there is so much more to this food lovers outlet.
The Montclair Dispatch had the pleasure of speaking with Lynley Jones about the origins of Adventure Kitchen, how Montclair has shaped the organization, and her plans for the future.
Initially, Lynley began teaching after-school cooking classes through Edgemont’s enrichment program, where her children were attending elementary school. “In my original cooking classes, I wanted to use food as a vehicle to take kids on a journey of exploration, rather than just straight-up cooking lessons. Sometimes we’d learn about the food of a particular culture or a period in history, or we might cook the food that appears in a book. My very first class was on Mexican cooking, and we learned about Mexican history, culture, folklore, etc., in addition to learning about cooking Mexican dishes. There are a thousand years of history behind a dish like guacamole, and I wanted the kids to know about that – it’s not just an American Superbowl sidedish, it’s another nation’s cultural heritage. Around the world, people eat what they eat for a reason. It’s always been really important to me to honor the culture and the people that the food comes from.”
After each class, Lynley would then create a write-up of that day’s lesson, and give out recipes. When the course ended, she would compile all of the recipes into a cookbook for each student. She then decided that it was best to digitize her recipes, giving way to the creation of adventurekitchen.com. “I gradually started publishing recipes about once a week on the website, and would send them to the list of families who had been in my cooking classes.” Eventually, Lynley also began sharing her recipes and lessons on social media as well.
Lynley further explained the expansion of her recipes, “As a recipe writer, I would often run into the conundrum of whether to call for the more authentic/obscure/hard-to-find ingredients vs. using substitutes to make recipes more accessible. It always bothered me to suggest substitutes, because that doesn’t really honor the cultural legacy behind the original ingredients. For example, you could use a combination of smoked paprika and crushed red pepper in place of Aleppo pepper, and it would taste reasonably close. But that’s not really the point. Aleppo pepper comes from Aleppo, Syria, and it’s an ingredient with a strong cultural heritage in a place that’s been ravaged by violence. To suggest that alternative ingredients are good enough feels deeply disrespectful to the actual legacy of the people behind the food.”
“But on the other hand, I’ve always felt very strongly that Adventure Kitchen should be for everyone – not just sophisticated foodies, but for people who are just learning for the first time, and for kids as well as for grownups. Or anyone who is just curious about the world. So calling for these hard-to-find ingredients makes cooking tougher for a lot of people.”
It was this challenge that guided Lynley to a breakthrough. “One day it hit me – we could make ingredients available through the website! I could scout around to find the best sources for interesting ingredients, and then we could make them available to people through Adventure Kitchen. So that’s how our spice business started. We started with two blends that I created: Mexican Sweet Blend and Sumac & Sage Seasoning. We’ve been adding more and more spices since then, and I hope to add more ingredients beyond spices in the coming months and years.”
The Adventure Kitchen ice pops, more commonly known as “Spice Pops,” grew to become a farmers’ market staple, thanks to Lynley’s daughter. Our Spice Pops started last summer. I was making a chocolate ice pop recipe for the website, and I grabbed a jar of Aleppo pepper that we were selling so I could add some to the pops. After we photographed them for the website, my daughter and I were eating them in the kitchen, and she said “hey Mom, these are really good. You should call them Spice Pops since they’re made with your spices, and you could sell them!” Lynley began selling her Spice Pops at the Crane Park market, consistently making new flavors to sell every week. “So for this summer, we bought the Spicecycle (mobile cart) and we’ve been selling them at the farmers’ market and local events this summer.”
And as for those cooking classes held in Edgemont, they have unsurprisingly grown as well, leading Lynley to create Adventure Kitchen camps. “We do two kinds of camp: Cooking Camp and Adventure Camp. Cooking Camp is basically a camp version of the original cooking classes. Adventure Camp is really unique – we take public transportation into NYC and have food adventures all over the city for a week.”
“The other unique thing about Adventure Kitchen is that we give 10% of profits from retail product sales to food-related charities. And, the kids in our summer camps vote each year to choose the cause for that year’s giving to support! We talk about a little about food justice issues during camp, then on the last day of each week, the campers vote on what cause they want us to support that year. I haven’t looked at the results of this summer’s campers yet, but we’ll wrap up the voting in the coming weeks (there are always a few stragglers) and we’ll announce the recipient for 2019 giving next month.”
Lynley spoke to the relationship between Adventure Kitchen’s growth, and her home of Montclair. “I literally don’t believe Adventure Kitchen would exist without Montclair. There are so many creative, interesting, entrepreneurial people in this town. Also, we are so blessed to have such a diverse population! It’s so great to have such a wealth of diverse experiences and perspectives just among my friends here in town; I can tap into their insights, traditions, and perspectives to enrich the things we create through Adventure Kitchen. Montclair public schools literally gave birth to Adventure Kitchen, and this community has been deeply supportive and encouraging at every turn.”
Lynley is also looking to Adventure Kitchen’s bright future. “My goal is for Adventure Kitchen to be a destination for curious cooks to have adventures with food. We plan to grow the website to be an online destination for all kinds of interesting food content, how-to’s, recipes, videos, etc. We plan to keep growing our selection of spices and ingredients to offer more and more things for curious cooks. Our Spice Pops have been a big hit this summer, so we plan to expand that part of the business in the coming years. And eventually, I’d like to have a brick-and-mortar retail space with a spice shop, bookshop, event/camp/classroom space and a cafe.”
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