Spice kitchen trend solving a pungent problem for some residents in northeast Calgary

There’s a new trend for homebuilders constructing new homes and communities in northeast Calgary, and it’s all about solving a problem that’s unique to the city’s South Asian community.

Small, ventilated pantry kitchens keep spicy food smells out of the home

Sandhya Narender with NuVista Homes in Calgary says spice kitchens have become an important feature in new homes in northeast Calgary. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

There's a new trend for homebuilders constructing new homes and communities in northeast Calgary, and it's all about solving a problem unique to the city's South Asian community.

Ten years ago, you'd likely get a blank stare from most developers if you asked about having a spice kitchen — the tiny kitchens-within-kitchens now being built in place of pantries — included in your new home purchase.

But in the last couple of years, they've become more popular than ever in new homes, ventilating even the most noxious spicy cooking odours out into the community, rather than into people homes.

The trend is keeping new homes smelling new and makes for an amazing smell on some northeast streets around dinner time.

Dmitri Voyevoda with Broadview Homes in the community of Redstone says developers have to give customers what they want, and in diverse northeast Calgary they want spice kitchens more than ever. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"Before, this is something we were building in maybe one out of 100 houses," said Dmitri Voyevoda with Broadview Homes, currently building homes in the new community of Redstone.

"This is the 'dirty' kitchen. Some of the cooking that a lot of people who live in the northeast do requires some heavy spices and some things cook for five, six, 10 hours," said Voyevoda.

"It lets you cook those meals without contaminating the rest of the home," he said.

The spice kitchens come with powerful extraction hood fans, a sink, some counter space and a small window. It's a way to keep the larger, main kitchen clean and smell-free.

The idea is believed to have followed some in the East Indian community from Vancouver to northeast Calgary a few years ago.

Spice kitchens are now featured in many show homes, and more buyers than ever are choosing to add them. Developers say the northeast is the only area of the city where they build them.

Powerful hood fans like this twin model found in an enclosed spice kitchen remove the aromatic and, in many cases, pungent smells of spices used in Indian and Pakistani food. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"If a builder wants to sell a lot of homes, they have to cater to the community, and the reality is northeast Calgary is a very ethnic community base with people from India to the Philippines, Fiji — you name it," said Voyevoda.

"Spice kitchens have now become a very important feature because the Asian cultures cook a lot of spicy food," said Sandhya Narender with NuVista Homes.

"I get a lot of clients asking me for a spice kitchen, especially the bigger ones," said Narender. 

She says that out of her last four sales in Redstone, three people have chosen to have one.

Kelsea Evashkevich with Pacesetter Homes in Redstone says the trend started in Vancouver and in the past few years has gained traction here, almost exclusively among the South Asian community. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"For the majority, they do want it," said Kelsea Evashkevich with Pacesetter Homes, which has a spice kitchen in its show home.

"Some see the spice kitchen and say 'I need that,'" said Evashkevich.

"We upgrade our spice kitchen hood fans to 600 cfm [cubic feet per minute], which is a lot more than our big fancy hood fan in the main kitchen, which is around 300," she added.

"Some people even do them in their garages, their own makeshift one, because they don't want it in the house and it doesn't take up extra square footage. It's often the cheaper option," said Evashkevich.


Dan McGarvey


Dan McGarvey is a mobile journalist focused on filing stories remotely for CBC Calgary’s web, radio, TV and social media platforms, using only an iPhone and mobile tech. His work is used by mobile journalism (mojo) trainers and educators around the world. Dan is focused on the city’s diverse northeast quadrant and sharing stories from under-reported communities. You can email story ideas and tips to Dan at


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