A “Souperific Night” is planned for Jan. 27 at The Pie Factory, with a homemade-soup cooking class, the second class in what Owner Kay Epps hopes will become a monthly installation.
Participants in The Pie Factory’s “Souperific Night” will learn to prepare four made-from-scratch soups, including cheeseburger soup, creamy tomato with bacon and cheddar soup, chicken tortilla soup, and loaded baked potato soup. Epps said those who take the class will “utilize things such as a chopper, a rocker, a mandolin, and will learn to make cream sauces as well, which is not a general common knowledge.”
The cooking class is the brain child of Owner Kay Epps, who said she wants to inspire others to “provide nourishment to a family at home, by bringing it back to the old way” of preparing food.
“I love food, all kinds of food, and I want to share that with others so they aren’t scared.”
Epps said so many have “walked away from their kitchens” in favor of cheap fast food. “I’m not taking away from the restaurant industry, but that is a treat for most…People get intimidated by cooking, but if you can learn to do this at home…what better knowledge is there to have?”
As far as soups go, Epps said many people don’t bother to make homemade soup anymore: “It’s so easy to go out and buy a can of soup, but people don’t realize how much sodium is in there. Sodium is a preservative, and canned soup is full of it. Plus, it tastes so much better when it’s made from scratch, and you can do it so easily at home. Good health is important, and homemade, made from scratch food is part of it.”
Epps added that soup is a great meal to prepare in advance, which makes it perfect for the busy home cook. “You can make a large batch, freeze it, then pull out single servings. Label it with a date, put it in the freezer, and use it within a year. I hope everyone who participates will learn they can make a big batch, then put it up for a rainy day, or for when someone doesn’t feel good — warm it back up, and the soup is as good as the day you made it.”
“We will definitely do this again. We are trying to create something new for people to do, and it’s a hands-on activity,” Epps shared. The last cooking class, held in November, was “An Appetizing Evening” with participants creating five different appetizers.
Epps, who was born and raised in Hawaii, has been cooking and catering for 25 years, and can cook “ethnic foods, down-home Southern style, some creole and French, pastries, cakes and pies, baked breads” and more. The recipes she uses in her classes are ones she has been using for years. Her family has been in the catering industry for 25 years, so she said she has developed a “natural instinct” about cooking and how to do it on a mass scale.
Ownership of The Pie Factory went to Epps in August of last year, after the previous owner left to pursue a career in music. Epps said it was a “win-win situation” for her, after she had been working in the restaurant as a general manager, and had always wanted to own her own restaurant. Wanting the transition to go as smoothly as possible, Epps said most didn’t even realize it was under new ownership, but she was excited to bring new ideas to the table, such as the monthly cooking classes.
“Here in this community, you may go out and go to dinner and a movie, but that can cost an easy $50 or more for just two people, so I wanted to offer something new.” Epps said she didn’t go to culinary school or formally train to be a chef, but she “loves to explore cooking” and uses her taste buds and sense of smell, and loves to share her cooking techniques and tips she has developed over the years.
Epps added that those who participate in the class will learn knife skills, including “how to dice, slice, and julienne” safely, as well as learn food preparation techniques to ensure that there is no cross-contamination.
No cooking skills are required, and Epps said any age may attend the class. “At the last class we had a mom with her three sons. The youngest was 15 and the oldest was 18 and he was very interested in culinary arts, and was something he was considering for a career. That is what is so neat — you get to come into this industrial kitchen, which not many people have the opportunity to do. It’s set up and designed quite differently from a home kitchen, but that’s part of the ‘wow’ factor.”
The class will include small groups with Epps rotating to give hands-on help. For instance, Epps said she would show “how to really dice onions so you can get a consistent product,” and said the proper knife skills will reduce the chances for injury.
“People look at an onion, and it’s a round thing, it slips and slides and has a smell. This keeps people from wanting to chop it. We will be teaching important skills, and through the skills you will learn how to make a good recipe. Those in the class will go home with good skills, and recipes you have already made yourself. I’m hoping everyone will say ‘That is so good I want to make it for my own family,’ and it isn’t that hard. It’s just taking the time to learn the skills and that will help you develop your own patterns you can try out at home.”
Epps said she hoped that there was enough interest generated to hold a cooking class once per month, which she called her “ideal” and added that once she has repeat participants, then she can “step up the difficulty level from more easy to moderate then progress to a more difficult level” like beef Wellington, and a seafood class that will include techniques like basting, baking, and broiling. For the summer, she hopes to have a summertime pork class, including dishes like short ribs, baby back ribs, and roasted pork, which will be a two-step class, since most items have to be prepared in advance since pork takes about five to six hours, and “you can’t rush that.”
“I am excited about this and will provide people who come to the class with packets including all the recipes and standards set by the health department for sanitizing water, and for disinfecting a kitchen and using handling techniques to prevent cross-contamination.” Epps said participants will be able to use the techniques for sanitation in their own kitchens, since “most food poisoning comes from improper good handling at home.”
“I will be sharing general knowledge in our industry that is not public knowledge, and hopefully will expand minds in regards to food.”
With only 15 spots available for the Jan. 27 soup cooking class, from 6 to 8:30 p.m., Epps said those who are interested in attending should call The Pie Factory at 786-8886 to sign up. The class costs $15 per person or $20 per couple. The Pie Factory is located on the corner of W. Lebanon Street and N. South Street in Mount Airy.
Jessica Johnson may be reached at 719-1933 or @MountAiryJess on Twitter.