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Celebrating Five Years of Culinary Innovation

In February 2019, the research landscape at NC State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences underwent a transformative evolution with the opening of the Dinah E. Gore Teaching and Research Kitchens. Named after philanthropist Dinah E. Gore, this state-of-the-art complex has emerged over the last five years as a hub for cutting-edge research, educational initiatives and culinary creativity.

The seeds of the Dinah E. Gore Teaching and Research Kitchens were sown in 2017 during a Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences retreat. Driven by a vision to elevate the department’s efforts in foods and nutrition, then Department Head and William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor Carolyn Dunn and faculty member Ben Chapman identified a missing ingredient – a kitchen. Determined to address this gap, they conceived a plan to transform a storage space into a multifaceted teaching and research kitchen complex.

Of course, this couldn’t have happened without the support of key stakeholders and donors, including the North Carolina Extension & Community Association and Eat Smart, Move More NC as well as Janice Christensen, Carolyn Lackey and Doris Yates Rogers.

dinah gore stands in front of her name plaque in the kitchen she helped fund
Dinah E. Gore in her namesake teaching and research kitchen complex.

Honoring the Namesake

The complex’s namesake, Dinah E. Gore, and her husband, Edward, have long been dedicated benefactors of family and consumer sciences programs at NC State. Their generosity has extended to numerous educational initiatives in North Carolina schools, colleges and universities. Dinah Gore’s significant contributions to NC State Extension‘s health, food, nutrition and fitness programs made her an ideal namesake for this pioneering kitchen facility.

Opened in February 2019, the Dinah E. Gore Teaching and Research Kitchens quickly became a focal point for teaching safe food preparation and preservation, conducting research on food ingredients, labeling, and safety, and developing healthy recipes for public dissemination. Under the guidance of Catherine Hill, nutrition programs manager for the Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences, the philosophy behind the kitchen is rooted in the belief that everyone can learn to prepare delicious, healthy and safe food with positive impacts on overall health.

The opening of the kitchens marked a monumental achievement, enhancing and extending the college’s work in teaching, research and Extension. Reflecting on the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Dunn recounts, “Seeing Dinah Gore cut the ribbon and everyone who made the kitchen possible enter the space in awe is something I will never forget. Everyone was so proud of what they had made happen with their vision and commitment.”

a woman stands in front a glass door and commercial grade refridgerator
Carolyn Dunn at the dedication of the pantry named in her honor.

The Legacy of Carolyn Dunn

At the helm of this ambitious project was Dunn, whose infectious passion and hard work turned the vision into reality. In February 2022, the kitchen’s pantry was dedicated to her in a surprise ceremony.

“I can think of no better way to honor her extraordinary career than with a named space in the very kitchen complex she helped create,” says Hill, emphasizing the profound impact of Dunn’s vision.

Expressing her gratitude at the time of the dedication, Dunn acknowledged the significance of the recognition, saying, “To have my name on the pantry is beyond anything I could have ever dreamed. I am filled with gratitude and joy and thank everyone who helped make this happen.”

Chapman, now head of the Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences, says Dunn’s contributions are far-reaching, noting that her impact extends beyond programs and publications. “Her true legacy is the passion she continues to bring to our department, whether it’s mentoring faculty, creating cutting-edge spaces, or being an advocate for the health and wellbeing of the families of North Carolina.”

a woman cuts food in a kitchen
people stand around a tray of food in a commercial test kitchen
trays of food

Utilization and Impact

Over the past five years, NC State has leveraged the teaching kitchens to host several lecture series, produce training videos, develop recipes for Extension agents and specialists to share with the public, and conduct research on labeling, ingredient use, food safety and healthy cooking. The kitchens stand as a testament to the university’s commitment to advancing culinary education and research and the impact has been felt in numerous ways:

The teaching side of the kitchen: 

  • 275+ videos created in the kitchens
    • 125+ of that were social media videos featuring:
      • Cooking demonstrations 
      • Quick, hands-and-pans recipe videos 
    • Produced 20 live-from-the-kitchens videos:
      • Culinary demonstrations
      • Cook-alongs 
      • Webinars/conferences 
    • Other ex:
      • Families Eating Smart Moving More curriculum videos 
      • Fuel for Life curriculum videos 
      • Training for kitchen skills videos 
  • 35+ agent and educator trainings:
    • Foundations of Flavor Training for agents
    • New Educator Skills Training for EFNEP educators 
    • Safe Plates 
    • Table for Two 
    • Extension Master Food Volunteers 
    • Food Safety 

The research side of the kitchen: 

  • Over 1200 participants for food safety studies:
    • Over 2,200 participant hours in the space 
    • Hours of coded video: 2,850
    • Hours of recorded audio interviews: 570
    • Observed handwashing attempts: 4,410 
    • Observed successful handwashing events: 112
    • Swabs (micro) taken in the kitchens: 4,541

Heading into the Future

The kitchen complex continues to be a beacon of innovation, fostering education, research and Extension in the realm of food and nutrition. The legacy of Dinah E. Gore and the dedication of faculty and staff ensure that the impact of this facility will inspire future generations to embrace the art and science of culinary excellence.

“Empowering innovation and knowledge, the Dinah E. Gore Teaching and Research Kitchens stand as a testament to our commitment to shaping the future of foods and nutrition,” says Chapman. “In these kitchens, we cultivate not just ingredients, but a thriving community of learning and discovery, ensuring a bountiful harvest of expertise for generations to come.”

This post was originally published in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences News.