The St. Lawrence Market is one of the most vibrant places in the city — none of the picture postcard patisseries or sterile superstores, the building is a mess of sights, sounds, smells and textures.
Iberian ham from Spain, bins of rice, shelves of mustard. And the cheese! This is the territory of professionals who know their ingredients. But for the rest of us, the choice can be overwhelming. We poke around, wonder, and go home with the familiar pork chop. What would we do with the rest of it anyway?
At the top of a dark staircase at the north end of the market is what purveyors hope will be the answer.
What was once a spacious, but non-descript lunchroom for school kids is now a state-of-the-art kitchen — a renovated loft space with bamboo floors, stainless steel appliances and a view of the market few have seen.
The idea was to transform the area into an informal classroom where curious market-goers could drop by to learn about the products below.
“The idea of a kitchen in St. Lawrence Market is a perfect match. You buy your groceries downstairs and you come up here and learn how to cook it,” said the City of Toronto’s Karina Patterson.
“The space was empty before. They used it as a lunchroom when kids came through for educational programs. It was an empty space. It was a wonderful space. It already had a life as a place to eat, so we just renovated it to make it an even nicer place to eat.”
Every Saturday morning, a different merchant or farmer showcases a product — everything from candied apples to omega-3 beef.
And in themed classes throughout the week, instructors use products from the market to teach home chefs the art of truffle-making, wine tasting and how to throw a holiday tapas party. Events are a mix of interactive demonstrations and hands-on cooking classes.
This Saturday, the kitchen will be part of a day-long event to celebrate the market’s 205th year. There will be tours, talks, live music, and $1.75 fare to mark the city’s 175th anniversary.