COOKING CLASS: Ankeny Woman Teaches Lost Art

There was a time in America when a cooking class would have seemed silly, but life has changed.

“Life is busy,” says Krista Jacob of Des Moines, “It can be hard to set time aside and to actually do it.”

We once learned from our parents but are now often a generation removed from the kitchen.

“There is a fear of cooking<” says Deb Cazavilan, owner and proprietor of Wooden Spoons and Apron Strings in Ankeny. “People don’t teach their kids how to cook anymore.”

Whether they’re starting at square one or honing already-ample skills, they’re flocking to Deb Cazavilan’s little place in Ankeny.

Like any good teacher, she’s found a way to point a simple finger at what can be a daunting science.

“It’s just food!” Cazavilan laughs, “it’s not open-heart surgery—it’s dinner!”

Cazavilan’s is a great story…a New Yorker who learned cooking from Alice at Alice’s Restaurant in Massachusetts…yeah, THAT Alice.

“I wrote her a letter after seeing the movie after seeing the movie,” Cazavilan remembers, “I was just 17, I was just a twirpy little kid–star struck, loved Arlo Guthrie and I wrote her a letter and I said ‘Boy, I’d really love to come work for you,’ and she called me as soon as she received my letter.”

Just like that, a long career as a chef was off and running.  Her career has changed a bit, but she maintains the same open atmosphere that Alice showed her back in the 70s.

“I feel like you’re coming into my home,” says Cazavilan of her customers, “ I feel like this is just an extension of my home and you’re coming in and I’m going to show you how to make good food. It’s very relaxed.”

Classes run several times a week, and are usually full.  Repeat business is common.

“She’s very practical about cooking,” says Jacob, “it’s not stuff that’s so time consuming that you would just look at the recipe and think ‘I won’t have time to do that.’”

Christmas cookies are on the menu, today, and no one can wait to try out the new recipes at home.

“Oh, yeah and you smell ‘em!” laughs Jeanne Johnson of Ankeny, “the kids walk in they say “Grandma’s cooking!’”

They’ll take home some sweets, but it’s the lessons Cazavilan gets remembered for.

“I always walk away with something I can use,” says Kristin Holm of Johnston.

And therein lies the big payoff.  A skill once taken for granted that was fumbled…even lost…but recovered again.

“When I get that email a week or two or a month later with a photo that says ‘Look what I did!’ That is tremendously gratifying,” Cazavilan says.