I was born and raised on a farm in northeastern Iowa. My dad was a farmer and my mom was a school teacher. I had three older brothers. From as far back as I can remember, my mom either went to summer school or taught summer school. At 5 years old, she would leave me printed notes about what time to start the oven, exactly what to do with the food to either make my dad and brothers lunch or bake cookies for them or bake a cake. It was my job on the farm and I loved every minute of it. Then when I was slightly older she let me get a recipe of the month from Betty Crocker. This was a big deal because we never had any money and I think it cost $8 a month for these recipes. She would let me make a recipe each week but sometimes the recipe didnʼt fit our budget so my mom would make me change the recipe to meet our budget!! Because we were on a farm we always cooked with awesome beef and pork, fresh vegetables from the garden, and fresh eggs from the chickens. This is something that has stayed with me. I believe in fresh ingredients and know where your ingredients come from.
When I moved to Des Moines, I started waiting tables at different restaurants just to pick up things. Then I started working in the kitchen at Des Moines Golf for a short period. I took cooking classes from a woman that had cooked Julia Child and gone to cooking school in France. In 1997/1998, I got a job on the kitchen line at Carpe Diem. It was so hard but I loved it. I bought the restaurant in the fall of 1999. It was the best year of my life. I not only had a restaurant but also had a baby girl. I left the restaurant to raise my daughter, Olivea.
Olivea and I have always cooked together. She loves it as much as I do. When she was little, we always had big parties with her friends families and made sure there was always a big spread of beautiful food! She knew I missed cooking for people and encouraged me to get out and do it again. She kept saying you need a restaurant again, mom. Lots of money and as a single mom, I couldnʼt do it. I started doing cooking classes with friends. I would have a hostess each month, they would pick the menu (3 recipes) and I would bring the food, recipes and make them dinner!
I enjoy this so much that it has turned into a business. I love making in home dinner parties for groups of 8 to 20. I love the cooking classes. I get to see beautiful homes, meet awesome people but most of all, I love seeing the joy on peoples faces when they eat great food made with quality ingredients.
I love Des Moines’ ethnic grocery stores. I love our farmers market. I finally have my own garden each summer. I buy beef and pork from a local farmer. I feel like its come full circle. Iʼm teaching my daughter what my mom taught me with the same ingredients.