Awn Kitchen survives setbacks with community support
Nothing could have prepared Kaelin Whittaker for the challenges she would encounter while trying to build her business, Awn Kitchen, in the middle of a pandemic. But she’s still standing, and her latest shift has been greeted with tremendous support.
“It’s been a roller coaster…I’ve lost sight of the why, I’ve lost sight of the strength and resiliency of myself, I’ve felt defeat, I’ve felt fear, and a whole slew of other emotions,” she said. “But I have also felt so much positivity, love, grace, and so much pride and happiness. The team at Awn is incredible and willing to pivot and adapt as needed, they are there to support one another and the dream and vision that is Awn, to keep dreaming and keep pushing forward, even when the days are hard.”
Awn Kitchen grew from Whittaker’s home-based business, originally called Ruby Apron, which offered baking and cooking classes out of her home. In June 2021, she opened a brick-and-mortar storefront in the neighbourhood of Lansdowne, fulfilling a dream to have a space that would accommodate those classes and a full-service café. She had started planning it in 2019, before COVID-19 turned everything upside-down.
“I had built a strong foundation for Awn before deciding to expand,” said Whittaker. “I knew Lansdowne needed and wanted a café.”
When Whittaker announced the postponement of all in-person classes in December, the community was disappointed but understanding. And their response was overwhelming when she introduced Awn at Home, which offers prepared meals made with seasonal ingredients.
“We’ve sold out every day, the feedback has been so positive, and it’s been a fun way for us to pivot,” said Whittaker. “It’s something we aim to continue doing once we are back to dine-in and offering in-person classes again.”
Whittaker said two things prompted her to expand: “Wanting more as a business owner and the idea of not wanting to put all of my eggs in one basket!”
She’s worked to shelter her 10 staff from layoffs throughout this period, and has been grateful that her team has consistently been on the same page about the pandemic. Awn has been through three sets of government restrictions, though Whittaker notes that she’s always been ahead of the mandated changes.
“In March 2020 I stopped teaching (in my home-based business) before any restrictions were put in place,” she said. “Late in 2020 I did the same, and I didn’t start teaching again until this July. To me, the virus has always been bigger than you or I. It’s about our community, about our first responders, our frontline workers, and about kids.”
Although the last couple of years have been a whirlwind, Whittaker still has a positive outlook on the future for Awn.
“The community in Lansdowne and beyond have been so receptive to what we are doing both in the café and workshop,” she said. “As we pivot and continue to offer new and exciting things, they’re on board for all that we do. It might sound cliché, but on the tough days it’s the community that keep pushing me forward.”
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- Bodega’s St. Albert location is temporarily closed due to a staff testing positive for COVID-19.
- With some provinces closing restaurants to in-person dining, some are calling for more financial supports for workers affected.
- The folks behind Workshop Eatery and Woodshed Burger will be opening up Hayloft Steak and Fish in early March.
- Vintage Fork’s tea business will be relocating to a residence in the Alberta Avenue neighbourhood this summer.
- Envie, offering southern American cuisine, is open in the former Wildflower Grill space at 10009 107 Street.
- Aloha Hawaiian Poke & Grill is now open in west Edmonton at 11315 174 Street.
- Indian restaurant Lazeez Affair is open in west Edmonton at 10813 170 Street.
- Canadian dessert chain D Spot Cafe opened its first location in Edmonton at 3803 Calgary Trail, #540.
- Japanese chain Fuwa Fuwa Pancakes will be opening in Edmonton some time this year.
- June’s Delicatessen in Highlands announced their closure, with their last day being January 16, 2022: “Not to blame it all on ol’ Covey but it’s definitely been a huge factor. We set out to bring the Edmonton community a great lil’ Jewish inspired deli where we could all come together over blintzes, matzo ball soup, Reubens, bagels & much more. What we’ve had to do is change over and over and over again moving us further away from the initial vision we set out to share with all of you.” They will be sharing their new plans for the space at some point.
- The Tomato is soliciting nominations for their annual Top 100 Best Things To Eat or Drink in Edmonton list. Submissions will be accepted until February 4, 2022.
- MilkCrate just started a new loyalty program.
- Ernest’s at NAIT is re-opening for lunch on January 13, 2022.
- Learn more about new restaurant May from owner Jimmy Shewchuk and executive chef Doreen Prei.
- RGE RD’s Blair Lebsack and Caitlin Fulton were interviewed about running a restaurant and opening a new business in the pandemic.
- Ohana Donuterie talked about their tempting Hawaiian-style donuts on Edmonton AM.
- Edify lists restaurants that offer thoughtful beer and food pairings.
- Jason Foster offers his 2022 predictions for the beer scene.
- Soho donated $2600 of cold weather wear to those in need last week.
- The majority of Edmontonians surveyed about the public parks alcohol consumption pilot want the program to stay.
- Local chef Corey Feschuk shares his recipes, all made from products sourced from the dollar store, on his TikTok channel.
- Calgary-based cookbook author Julie van Rosendaal had such an overwhelming response to her free online kids cooking camps last week that she’ll be continuing with classes in the evenings and on weekends.
What I Ate
- We ventured outside over the weekend to pick up lunch from Jack’s Burger Shack, making it easily our longest outdoor walk in a week. It was well worth it though, and they even kicked in a grilled cheese for Emily to make up for the small fries they left off our order last moth. It’s so great having them in #yegdt.
Take-out from Jack’s Burger Shack
- We were able to get a sneak peek of some of the Chinatown Dining Week deals (a benefit of being a volunteer!). Emily immediately took to the chicken skins from Kim Fat Market. They don’t seem like much, but fried to a crisp and showered with garlic, they’re savoury and incredibly addictive. They’re available for just $10 as take-out from January 13-23, 2022, along with dishes from 17 other participating businesses. I hope you’ll check it out!
Emily and her chicken skins