Among the many many gems, er, people, who have woven themselves into the fabric of the Bainbridge Island community, is Kate McDill. Over the past year, McDill has consistently offered one to two online cooking classes for BARN. Of particular popularity has been her renowned “Kate’s Brownies” class, and product. She also offered “Hazelnut Current Boule,” (a round yeasted bread), and “Bread Basics,” making Focaccia and Flat Bread (aka Naan). At BARN over the years, she has also shown people how to make Galettes and Biscuits, among many other baked goods. Kate is a Baker.
Although many people teach in BARN’s Kitchen Arts Studio, McDill has been there from the beginning. Her wife, Deb Sweet, was an original board member of BARN, and McDill was drawn into helping. (Full disclosure, I helped found BARN in 2011, serving as an original board member from 2011-2018 and helping to design the Metal Arts/Jewelry Studio.) McDill was originally interested in the Fiber Arts Studio and got involved with that group. However, with a systems-planning background she was talked into bringing her experience to help design the commercial kitchen and help conceive of its future programming possibilities. She became the first Studio Lead in 2017. She stepped down within a year, continuing on the Steering Committee for the Studio and occasionally becoming Lead or Co-Lead again for brief spells as needed. She proudly organized the second Annual Brunch, an incredible morning feast hand-made by BARN volunteers. The meal is used to share BARN’s vision and activities, and as a fundraiser.
Kate McDill is a Baker. She cut her dough, err, baking skills at the well-known and visionary Surrogate Hostess Restaurant in Seattle in 1983. She became skilled in making French pastries and comfort “goodies” that are still fondly recalled to this day. The vision of the well-respected restauranteur and chef, Robin Woodward, was to make local and fresh food from scratch, and to serve customers at long communal tables. These seems to be the norm now but certainly were not in the early 1980s. They were as radical as it was having a woman as a restauranteur or chef back then. By 1988, McDill was catering and ran a B&B for five years. She and Sweet did weddings, where McDill made wedding cakes and Sweet officiated as a Universal Life Minister. McDill sees her work as a baker more as an avocation than the production baker she has been.
The yearning for community that Woodward and McDill helped create at Surrogate Hostess was picked up a few decades later at BARN with its Weekly Bakealongs. Spearheaded by Anne Wilhoit, BARN began offering these King Arthur Bakealong Challenges in late 2017, and a new version was held via Zoom during the pandemic to bring people together while staying at home. The weekly bakealongs wandered away from the official Challenge, which offered a wide range of pie forms and breads, evolving but keeping its sentiment to draw people together, to connect. McDill was one of several instructors for these classes, offering filled scones, the “Best” chocolate chip cookies, Pistachio Carrot Cake, and such. There have also been gluten-free bakealongs.
Twice McDill co-lead a “Hands-on Dinner Class” with fellow BARN staff member Carolyn Goodwin held at Barnabas. The purpose beyond learning to make ricotta cheese, and a meal with dessert, was to sit and enjoy the meal they made together as a group and talk about food and cooking. This is building community, one group at a time.
The Kitchen Arts Studio also engaged 20 volunteers through the early part of the pandemic to make meals for community members in need. McDill was one of the volunteers. Over seven and a half months the group, led by Meghan Males, made between 200 and 275 meals a week, with distribution of meals done in partnership with Helpline House, Bainbridge Senior Council, Gateway Church, Island Volunteer Caregivers and ShareNet Food Bank. This weekly practice asked 20 hours a week from the BARN volunteers. For them, beyond giving to the community, it gave them a period of respectably distanced visitation with like-minded individuals, when otherwise they would be shuttered down in their homes. In total, the BARN group called BARN Bites, delivered over 7500 meals.
The Kitchen Arts Studio was set up with the help of a number of people, but McDill’s skills and extensive experience keenly aligned with BARN’s mission on service, which states that the
“goal is to create a true community center, using craft as a magnet to bring together people who would not normally know one another or have opportunities to collaborate. Community service projects done in BARN’s workshops will widen the circle of connections even more. The result will be a more resilient community – one where people have hands-on skills and are committed to helping one another.”
These experiences and these activities can be found in all the studios at BARN. There are many more stories hidden behind the people that helped build the BARN organization and the many more who sustain its vision by generously sharing their skills and experience.
Join Chef McDill and other chefs for BARN’s Kitchen Arts Classes. Register here for a culinary class that inspires you!
“Three Long-gone Seattle Restaurants We Miss,” by Naomi Tomky
Seattlerefined, May 15, 2015 and “The Restaurants that changed the way we eat,” by Kathryn Robinson, Seattle Met, November 2008.
CLICK HERE TO READ OTHER FIRST FRIDAY FOCUS & EBB and FLOW ARTICLES BY BILL
ABOUT BILL BARAN-MICKLE: 2020 Island Treasure Awardee. Recently, Bill has enjoyed exhibiting in several international art biennial exhibitions. Of the three in which he has participated, he won Third Place for Sculpture from the European Confederation of Art Critics in the Chianciamo Biennale, at the Chianciano Art Museum in Italy in 2011, and First Place in Applied Arts in the London Biennale of 2013. In 2013 alone, he will have participated in eight exhibitions: from London to a two-person exhibition near home. In addition, Bill was asked to be a representative for CCAC’s exhibition celebrating 100 years of the Metals Department, and a mix of group shows in New York City, Miami, Seattle and Las Vegas. Bill is the designer of the 10 foot Equitorial Bowstring Sundial located at the Richie Observatory in Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island, WA and completed in 2015.