Expert Interview : The Urban Element
Oliver Schelck, co-founder of The Urban Element, talks to us about their unique cooking classes. Taking place in a very cool converted Ottawa heritage fire station, The Urban Element chefs transform the home cook in you into a budding kitchen master. We got the scoop on how it all started and what makes them a unique Ottawa culinary experience. Read on for our Expert Interview: The Urban Element.
Please could you tell us a little bit about the history of The Urban Element and how you began?
The Urban Element recently celebrated its 10th year in business. We moved from Toronto to Ottawa to launch the venture primarily as a cooking studio in 2005 because we felt it was a food-savvy city (and a beautiful one to raise a family). The culinary scene was just picking-up and we understood it held lots of potential for growth. Sure enough we opened the doors and received great traction right away.
Our service offerings evolved with increased demand for food-based private events. To date, we are well-known for our regularly scheduled culinary classes but the more dominant culinary activities we play host to are corporate team building cooking classes, client appreciation events, meetings, private dinners, cocktail receptions and weddings. Our summer culinary programs for kids are wildly popular and recently we’ve expanded our services beyond the brick-and-mortar studio, branching out into off-site catering and special other projects.
What encouraged your passion for cooking and teaching others?
Our passion for cooking and teaching others began with a sincere appreciation of food and a desire to share the food experience in its entirety – from growing it, to sourcing it, to procuring it, to cooking and communally consuming it. The venture has been a natural extension and expression of our own food philosophies, and we are left feeling quite fulfilled when we witness the way we can energize people about food. It’s been very satisfying to build a business around this notion and serve our guests.
What makes your experiences different from other culinary experiences?
The Urban Element space and staff welcomes our guests to make them feel at ease when bringing them into the fold of what we do. We take them on a journey, aiming to inspire our guests to think differently about how they source food, prepare and share it with others. Every culinary professional at Urban Element sustains a deep passion for food and the desire to share their knowledge with our guests. Down to every core team member, we revel in making that connection.
The Urban Element classes take place in a unique setting? Can you tell us what makes it unique and how you came to be here?
Guests of ours have always said that our venue by itself is a unique place for a culinary experience – commercially designed in a heritage fire station building but warm enough to feel you are at home. We have intentionally kept some of the heritage features in place (even the original fire pole!) We’ve designed the space to accommodate large groups and our contemporary open-concept kitchen has been described as a “dream kitchen” – it’s definitely a sandbox for cooks to play in. But no less important is that we’ve configured the space for maximum interaction between food expert and client, and the experience of that is maximized in all of our various culinary formats.
What’s your most frequently asked question from customers?
Our most frequently asked question from customers is, “Do I need cooking experience to participate?” and the answer is not at all! All our culinary events are designed to accommodate a wide variety of experience levels – we welcome novice, intermediate and more experienced cooks. We love seeing the looks on people’s faces when they try something different or discover a new taste or flavour.
Lastly, is there anything else you’d like to add?
In today’s busy day and age food has sometimes become an afterthought and realistically we have all had to cut corners every once in a while. But as much as possible, we should maintain a lifetime healthy relationship with food. Not just in the interest of sustaining our body but also for its other undeniable benefits to bring people together, create memories, comfort and joy. We want all of our guests coming out of Urban Element feeling a little more enlightened and motivated to build on their relationship with food than when they first walked-in.
Thank you Oliver for talking with us! Your culinary experiences sound fantastic!
Buy a gift experience certificate for an Ottawa cooking class with The Urban Element: Hands-on Cooking Class