Learn and Have Fun at Zest! Cooking School
For four years, Sharon Landis has offered cooking classes at Zest!, her kitchen supply store in Lititz. After seeing how well the classes were received, and also noticing a lack of cooking classes available in the area, opening a cooking school seemed like the next logical step. Zest! Cooking School, with classes for adults, teens and children, opened this past February in a spacious 1,500 square foot space in Lititz, about three miles from the store.
We had already built a customer base and a reputation, so branching out and expanding went seamlessly,” says Landis. “We’ve heard from a lot of our customers how they’ve been looking for this. There is a real interest and desire out there in taking cooking classes. People want to have a fun experience and learn something with their friends, neighbors, spouse or significant other.”
Zest! Cooking School has a warm, farm-to-table ambiance with modern kitchen equipment including a spacious island with a quartz countertop, Viking Professional appliances, stainless steel worktables, and even a touch of shiplap. The space also has two large televisions and professional-grade cameras to film the stovetop and the work counter so students can have a good view. The space was designed by Kitchens by Eileen, the appliances are from Martin Appliance and Stray Productions provided the technology. All three companies are in the Lititz area, and Landis notes it was important to her to work with other local businesses to bring Zest! Cooking School to fruition.
With seating for up to 24 people, Landis can now offer a full range of cooking classes covering special diets, world cuisines, events and more. “We have a full complement of instructors that range from chefs, to experts in their fields to home cooks,” she says. “Our gluten-free cooking class instructor, Tina Bare, has been with us for about three years. She has celiac disease, so she provides some great tips about the menu for the classes, and people can also ask her questions about what to eat or how to substitute something. She’s a wealth of knowledge.”
Vegan chef Gili Kieffer leads vegan-cooking classes and educates students about plant-based lifestyles. Chef Nino Elia, a native of Sicily, teaches how to cook authentic Italian cuisine through classes with a fun, dinner party atmosphere. Landis says she is also partnering with dieticians across the Susquehanna Valley to do heart healthy classes, and they will also feature vegan and gluten-free classes for children. Kids and teen camps will be offered this summer.
One of the most popular classes at Zest! Cooking School demystifies the technique behind making French macarons. “That class sells out as soon as word gets out that we have another one scheduled,” Landis says. “Macarons are expensive to buy and tricky to make, so we have a fantastic instructor, Danielle DeSanto, teaching this class. Danielle is great with people and an expert at making French macarons.”
Landis strives to capture not just the educational aspects of learning how to cook, but also the social experience of cooking. “We really want people to come and experience the Zest! Cooking School from all different levels. We have classes for beginners, as well as more experienced, in-depth classes like artisan bread making. We want everyone to be comfortable, come in and have fun. Julia Child once said, ‘This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook—try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all, have fun,’” Landis enthuses. “The quote is on our wall, and that’s what we live by.”
Zest! Cooking School is located at 1180 Erbs Quarry Rd., Lititz. For more information and to view the class schedule, visit ZestChef.com.
Sheila Julson is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and contributor to Natural Awakenings magazines throughout the country.