Whether you’re 12 or 72, it’s never too late to learn something new in the kitchen.
Since 2014, Zest! – a unique shop tucked comfortably along Main Street in historic Lititz – has been offering cooking classes for area foodies. Some cooking class participants even come from out of state (New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, D.C.) to take part in these culinary cabarets.
Zest! owner Sharon Landis thinks most of the out-of-towners attend for several reasons: “the socialization, the fun, the interaction with the chef, learning a new skill, expanding their cooking repertoire. Cooking can be a hobby, and it’s fun to come here and be with other people who enjoy that.”
Sharon opened her home to students and started teaching private cooking classes years ago. She had a passion for cooking and wanted to share that same passion with others. “I love helping people be adventurous in the kitchen. I thought with cooking classes we could eliminate some of that fear and give them the confidence [they need] for their next culinary adventure,” Sharon explains.
The shop took on a major renovation to include a kitchen for more “hands-on” cooking demonstrations. In late 2016, Sharon and her husband, Jim, installed an overhead flat screen TV and GoPro camera for students to be given a bird’s eye view of the kitchen as the chef prepares each course. Students also help with various recipes and are given different tasks, such as measuring, mixing, kneading, stirring, zesting and more.
The instructors vary from professional chefs and home cooks to authors, such as Valerie Baer and Debbie Mosimann.
Tina Bare, who was diagnosed with Celiac disease four years ago, has taught 15 classes at Zest!. She instructed a gluten-free Christmas Cakes & Cookies class this past December. Being allergic to gluten has helped to hone her cooking skills that much more. “We want to take care of our bodies to live a long life and have the energy to do the things we need to do,” Tina says. “When I was diagnosed with Celiac disease, I had to make a lot of changes in my life to eliminate wheat, barley and rye. It’s fun to help people realize that they can still eat delicious food even if they can’t eat gluten. And, gluten-free eating can be healthier.”
There are a number of benefits to eating healthy: it can reduce heart disease, control weight gain/loss, increase energy, help to prevent strokes, etc. Likewise, there are many disadvantages to eating an unhealthy diet. According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “More than one-third of U.S. adults have obesity.” And, although there are many factors that can cause this detrimental condition – genetics, medications, psychological issues – some can be controlled by simply eating the right things the right way.
“Increasing your fruits and vegetables is No. 1, in my opinion. You can’t go wrong. No matter what diet is out there, increase your fruits and vegetables,” Sharon stresses. “We do have a portion control issue in our country, I think. And, cutting out processed sugar [would also be beneficial]. I think if you do those three things – watch your portion control, increase your fruits and vegetables, and cut out sugar – you’re going to feel better.”
Even when experimenting with old family recipes, Sharon and Tina agree that you can always substitute healthier ingredients for the heavier, more fattening ingredients.
“A lot of times you can use low-salt or no-salt chicken stock in place of a cream or milk. That’s easily done,” Sharon says.
As with every class taught at Zest!, Sharon and her chefs hope participants arrive eager to learn and leave with a new knowledge of being in the kitchen.
“I hope to inspire people to be able to enjoy food again if they have received a diagnosis of Celiac or a gluten sensitivity,” Tina shares. “To be able to show them that you actually can still really eat delicious foods, there’s just a whole world to explore out there.”
Sharon adds, “I hope they will go away having learned something new. That’s always my goal for the classes.”