Naomi O. Miroglio
FAIA, Assoc. DBIA
Last year, on a triangular-shaped wedge of land formed by a bend in the Napa River, the Culinary Institute of America opened its newest campus: CIA at Copia. Joining CIA’s four other campuses around the world, this one in downtown Napa allows the nonprofit institution to substantially increase its educational and culinary offerings to the public. To make this new home, we renovated a building originally constructed in 2001 to house a nonprofit museum and educational center called Copia. With the latest piece of the renovation just completed—a state-of-the-art new teaching kitchen with views of the Napa River—CIA has really put its stamp on the Copia building, allowing members of the public a chance to sharpen their cooking skills like never before.
The 7,000-square-foot Hestan Teaching Kitchen allows CIA at Copia’s professional chefs to teach up to three hands-on cooking or baking classes of 22 people at the same time. Located on the second floor in what had been Copia’s permanent gallery space, the teaching kitchen is equipped with three impressive Hestan cooking suites. Each one has two hoods, with prep tables and lecture and dining spaces adjacent.
To turn the former gallery into a spacious teaching kitchen, we opened up the formerly enclosed gallery. We added windows on the south side, revealing views to the garden. New large storefront systems on the north side of the room provide views of the Napa River. The back wall contains cabinetry and cooking appliances, and enlarged historic menus hang on the other walls. We preserved the original undulating ceiling that was designed to echo the wavy form of the building’s roof.
Opened in 2001, Copia celebrated the winemaking and culinary achievements of Napa Valley with art galleries, theaters, classrooms, a demonstration kitchen, and a vegetable and herb garden, along with a restaurant called Julia’s Kitchen in honor of Julia Child. But the ambitious program ran aground in the economic downturn, and the facility closed after only seven years. In 2015, CIA bought the north section of the campus, which includes the Copia building and its adjacent gardens.
CIA asked ARG to renovate the building and refashion the campus to make it welcoming to the public. The original Copia building had been designed like a museum—the gardens, theater, demonstration kitchen, and restaurant were off limits unless you bought a ticket and, a large wall prevented access to the gardens.
We took down the wall to give the public free access to the gardens and dismantled an enormous exterior steel staircase. We added stone terraces to the semicircular bowl of the outdoor amphitheater for casual seating as well as to make it possible to put tables and chairs for outdoor events.
Since its opening, CIA at Copia has hosted cooking and beverage classes and demonstrations; wine tastings; movie screenings; book signings; lectures on food, wine, and culinary art; and other events. The first phase reintroduced a 250-seat theater, a 72-seat wine tasting and culinary demonstration theater, a lifestyle store, and the Restaurant at CIA Copia.
This year, along with the Hestan Teaching Kitchen, we also completed CIA at Copia’s Vintners Hall of Fame. Located in the atrium, the hall of fame celebrates the men and women who have contributed to the growth and worldwide prestige of the California wine industry. Very soon, the Chuck Williams Culinary Arts Museum will open on the 2nd floor, showcasing more than 4,000 culinary items that celebrate the art of cooking.
The original Copia concept was perhaps ahead of its time. Now the Oxbow Public Market next door is thriving, and tourism in Napa has gone up quite a bit. CIA at Copia’s new campus strengthens the city’s status as a major hub of food and wine—and allows the public to strengthen their culinary game.
Check out the class calendar at http://www.ciaatcopia.com/classes/copia-class-calendar/.
Photography: Victor M. Samuel Photography