Whether you're a novice or a little more advanced, Lakeside's Scool of Culinary Design will sharpen your chef skills in no time.
Finding Your Inner Chef
Even in her small kitchen, Donna Vestal manages to whip up large pots of soup that she distributes to friends and neighbors who drop by. Vestal believes—no matter how big or small—the kitchen is the heart of every home.
That’s the primary reason she generously donated to Lakeside Legacy Arts Park (LLAP) in Crystal Lake so they could renovate the Dole Mansion kitchen. The Dole is owned and run by LLAP.
LLAP’s kitchen is home to Lakeside’s School of Culinary Design, which hosts a variety of cooking classes for both adults and children. Without Vestal’s assistance, the program might never have been possible. Prior to LLAP, the Dole Mansion was owned by the First Congregational Church of Crystal Lake.
“When the church sold the place, it was stripped,” said Vestal, a Crystal Lake resident. “The kitchen was absolutely horrendous.” Looking around the kitchen today, you might never know it was once in such a sorry state. A new floor, drop ceiling, walk-in cooler, heating rack and freezer, among other things, have helped create a room that serves catering and teaching needs very well.
“Everything is new as far as equipment goes, except for the stove,” said Heather Miller, Director of Community Development at LLAP. The original hood over the stove is still in place, but was faux finished by artist Nikki Ikonomopoulos.
A Kitchen Reborn
Port Barrington resident Rob Macey, who formerly owned the now-closed Harvest Moon Café in Woodstock with his wife, consulted with LLAP on the kitchen renovation. Not only was he instrumental in helping design the layout, but he also advised on what equipment should be bought to create what would largely be used as a teaching space.
“I had to treat it as if it was a commercial kitchen,” Macey said. “It’s used for classes, but it’s also used here and there for catering and banquets.”
The kitchen will be used to prepare food for “Holiday Lights,” LLAP’s fundraiser dinner scheduled for December 13.
Macey kicked off the School of Culinary Design in March with an Iron Chef event in which four Chicago chefs competed. A regular class schedule began in May.
“We generally accommodate a group of 15 students to provide a more intimate setting and a one-on-one interactive experience,” Miller said.
The culinary program has three chefs—Macey, Amy Malina and Jeramie Campana. Malina teaches pastry classes and Macey, who runs the catering division of One Eleven Events—the exclusive caterer to Macy’s on State Street in Chicago—says he doesn’t often have the opportunity to teach classes.
The bulk of LLAP’s classes are led by Campana, who seems to eat, live and breathe the culinary world. He grew up in Barrington and then joined the Coast Guard.
“I fell into cooking there,” Campana said. “I got the basics, and I was never afraid to try anything.”
Catering to the Community
Class themes are based on the season and what is popular in the community.
“There are some things that go over well and you know they will,” Campana said. “So far, we’ve stuck with things we know people are going to go for—Italian, Asian and Caribbean.”
But the program’s coordinators also want to try out some different classes. Debra Roberts, LLAP’s Director of Events & Arts Education, said classes like cooking for two and diabetic cooking are being considered.
When she and Campana meet to plan the upcoming class schedule, “we brainstorm about what would be new and innovative,” said Roberts.
People attending Campana’s classes are more than welcome to observe, but he also likes them to get their hands dirty.
“I try to do a lot of hands-on,” he said. “If I need something fried, I’ll put someone on the fryer.”
Perhaps the best thing about Campana’s classes—besides the taste of the final products—is that all the ingredients can be found at your local grocery store and not for outrageous prices. A three-course meal for two including beef tenderloin, sea bass and mussels costs only $60.
Campana loves his work at LLAP and hopes to see the culinary program become more popular as time goes by.
“I would like to see at least a weekly class, if not twice a week, and I want to see the classes full,” he said. “The best part is people who come in here who are afraid to cook and they come back again and say that they tried to cook.”
For more information about Lakeside’s School of Culinary Design, including their culinary boot camps and corporate team-building programs, call 815-455-8000 or visit www.lakesidelegacy.org.