Participants shape loaves of sourdough bread at a Chatham CRAFT workshop led by Shauna Kearns. Photo courtesy of CRAFT.

Interested in upping your cooking skills? You can now sign up for a workshop on “Techniques in Trout” or making bread and sausage and assembling the perfect cheese plate. An upcoming two-part workshop will explore fermentation, where you can learn the fundamentals of kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha.

Chatham University’s CRAFT — Center for Regional Agriculture, Food, and Transformation — now offers public workshops, and undergraduate and graduate courses on topics including food production, dairy, sustainable meat and, yes, chocolate.

But CRAFT’s commitment goes beyond exploring the finer points of chocolates and cheeses.

“CRAFT’s goal is to help people develop skills and capacities to work in a new food economy,” says CRAFT’s Director, Alice Julier.

Launched in October 2017, CRAFT is housed within the food studies program at Chatham’s Falk School of Sustainability, which is located at its Eden Hall campus in Gibsonia and is the world’s first fully sustainable college campus. CRAFT’s work “embraces both ‘newer’ practices from cuisines of recent immigrants, and historic practices, like buckwheat pancake breakfasts at fire stations in Butler County,” Julier says.

But the real bread and butter of CRAFT is in the relationships it cultivates with local food and beverage purveyors. Through these innovative pairings, students gain valuable real-world experiences — from product development to recipe testing.

Participants learn how to make sausage in Maya Lantgios’ “Sausage from Start to Finish” workshop on January 27. Photo courtesy of CRAFT.
Participants learn how to make sausage in Maya Lantgios’ “Sausage from Start to Finish” workshop on January 27. Photo courtesy of CRAFT.

For instance, La Prima Espresso Co. worked with students to develop its Eden Hall Blend in 2010 and released a new roast named for the school’s famous alumna, environmentalist Rachel Carson.

And an ongoing oral history project — partially funded by Rivers of Steel — is capturing the stories of bread makers, grain farmers and historic grain producers in the region.

“Another nice one we’re doing,” Julier adds, “is a collaboration with Keyla Cooks and Cocinando con Arte” to help preserve Latinx culinary traditions in Pittsburgh.

CRAFT is also working with Oakmont-based Tomanetti Food Products to create a completely locally-sourced pizza — from crust to toppings.

Established by the Tomanetti family in 1957, the neighborhood institution was acquired by Hollymead Capital in 2016. Joe Bute manages Tomanetti’s business development and is consulting with CRAFT on the project.

Bute says CRAFT “ties together agriculture and sustainable solutions as well as a commitment to food as part of our total cultural experience.”

He believes the partners are demonstrating that commitment by creating a “hyper-local” new product. The crust was developed last fall using grains from Weatherbury Farm, and students in the Business of Food and Agriculture course are currently sourcing local ingredients for sauce and cheese.

“The goal is to introduce this finished pizza for the market sometime in late 2018 or 2019 and along the way have the current cohort at Chatham develop the product and the launch from start to finish,” says Bute. And, he adds, “Tomanetti would share the profits from this product with CRAFT as well.”

But it’s not just about the profits. Taste is important, too — and CRAFT has it covered.

Last fall, 1,000 people passed through the pizza shop in three hours during Oakmont’s light-up night, Bute says, “all telling us how much they loved our pizza.”

Emily fell in love with the written word as a teenager, when she published zines and wrote for her school paper. Today, she is a freelance writer with a decade and a half of experience in non-profit communications. She enjoys cooking, reading, crafting and exploring Pittsburgh with her husband and two sons.