We have had the joy of hosting and working with the best instructors and chefs in the world. But everything starts at home, and our roster is jam-packed with the absolute best of local talent.

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LOCAL FAVORITES
JP SamuelsonJ.P. SAMUELSON

If it involves something culinary, you can bet that J.P. has had his hand there somewhere. Born and raised in Stillwater, Minnesota, he’s been cooking for almost as long as he can remember. His career has taken him to New York, Europe and most of the United States. But his heart has always been right here in the North Star State. He’s been executive chef at the esteemed D’Amico Cucina, he’s cooked at the James Beard Foundation and he was the brains and brawn behind his own chef-driven restaurant in south Minneapolis. Currently, he’s the executive chef at Sopranos in St. Louis Park. J.P. has been teaching at Cooks for better than 15 years.

Lucia WatsonLUCIA WATSON

Chef Lucia is the proprietor of Lucia’s Restaurant, Wine Bar and Lucia’s To Go. The force behind one of the Twin Cities’ favorite neighborhood establishments, Lucia’s continuing popularity over the past two decades is a tribute to her sensibility in menu selection and her warm, congenial hospitality. Lucia has been honored with many awards over the years, and her recipes have been featured in a host of regional and national magazines. Three times in recent years, she has been nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award — Best Chef in the Midwest. She lives in Minneapolis and vacations in Brittany, France. Lucia has been teaching at Cooks for more than 20 years.

Robin AsbellROBIN ASBELL

Robin Asbell, former head chef of the Wedge Deli in Minneapolis and accomplished food writer, has been writing and teaching culinary classes in the Twin Cities since 1985. Much of her career has been devoted to developing exciting, easy-to-use recipes such as those featured in her cookbooks, The New Whole Grains Cookbook and The New Vegetarian. The recipes are collected from many years of preparing thoughtful and healthful meals both at home and professionally. Robin has held an esteemed position on Cooks’ roster of instructors for 13 years.

Kevin RyanKEVIN RYAN

Kevin Ryan’s day job is developing new products as a food scientist for General Mills. He holds a master’s degree in food anthropology and a Ph.D. in food science. Kevin served as an advisor to Cook’s Illustrated and authored the cookbook Why It Works: Insider Secrets to Great Food. In addition, he was an owner/operator of a catering business for five years. If that were not enough, Kevin is a wonderful teacher and he’s been plying his craft at Cooks for more than five years.

Zoe Francois and Jeff HertzbergZOE FRANCOIS & JEFF HERTZBERG

In their first cookbook, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, Zoe and Jeff showed you how to fill your kitchen with the irresistible aromas of a French bakery with just five minutes of preparation time. Their second book, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, tempts you with healthful baking with the same easy preparation. Their method is quick and simple, bringing forth scrumptious perfection in each loaf. Now these two are at it again with a new book, Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day. It’s fun, family-friendly and features their unrivaled approach to fast, homemade dough. In addition to teaching baking and pastry classes, Zoe also creates artful desserts and custom wedding cakes. These guys are like family, and they’ve been teaching at Cooks since their children were actually children.

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Michael Agnew, Minnesota’s first Certified Beer Cicerone (sommelier), is a charming and entertaining beer educator. He organizes beer tasting events for A Perfect Pint and writes a monthly beer column for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. www.aperfectpint.net

Jen Antila In 2010, Jen Antila traded her corporate corner cubicle for her kitchen!  Embracing a life-long love of cooking, Jen founded Catalyst Cooks to share that joy with others.  She can’t wait to have fun with you at Cooks of Crocus Hill or at Parley Lake Winery where she manages the tasting room. www.catalystcooks.com

Antonio Cecconi is a native of Italy and the author of many cookbooks including Betty Crocker’s Italian Cooking. He’s been living the culinary dream, cooking and sharing his insights for longer than he would care to admit. Besides, you would just be jealous.

Carrie Franzen has been a member of the Cooks family for almost 10 years. She started working with us while in culinary school. As her career blossomed, she never forgot her friends. She is the former pastry chef for jP American Bistro and currently teaches baking at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school.

Roy Goslin is an entrepreneurial spirit with a deep appreciation and passion for food and wine. A professional Business and Leadership Consultant, he spent his early years in business in the wine industry of South Africa. He has been cooking for more than forty years, including three years running a small restaurant in Cape Town in partnership with his eldest son. His latest venture, Z Wines USA, brings together his passion for food and wine and his international business experience. www.zwinesusa.com

Heather Hartman is an 11-year veteran of the now closed Cafe Brenda, and is currently the Chef at Spoonriver Restaurant. A graduate of The Art Institutes International in the Culinary Arts, she teaches with health and season in mind. Heather is also currently the Demo Chef at the Mill City Farmers Market.

Michelle Horovitz is founder and Executive Director of Appetite For Change, a nonprofit organization in North Minneapolis dedicated to using growing, cooking and eating food as a vehicle for social change. She teaches cooking workshops across the Twin Cities where parents and their kids can learn easy techniques for cooking together. Michelle also trained and worked as an assistant pastry chef, line cook, and prep cook at Michy’s Restaurant in Miami, FL under James Beard Award winning chef: Michelle Bernstein. Prior to embarking on her food career, Michelle practiced law as a Public Defender. Michelle lives with her husband and son in Southwest Minneapolis.

Jonathan Kaye originally from Australia, travels extensively throughout the world researching and learning about foods and cultures. But while he’s home, he teaches cuisines across cultures at Le Cordon Bleu and here at Cooks, including an award-winning sushi class. Jonathan has worked in various restaurants on the east coast including Union Square Cafe in New York City. He also worked as sous chef at W.A. Frost in the Twin Cities.

Van Keszler is a chef instructor at Le Cordon Bleu. He’s helped to educate a large portion of the professional chefs working in the Twin Cities. His first love is helping students become well versed in the basics of culinary technique.

Maggie Lyon joined the Cooks family after earning degrees in literature, cinema studies and most recently culinary arts from Le Cordon Bleu. She is currently the Class Schedule Coordinator as well as an instructor.

Randi Madden is a self-taught baker and cook, though she’s working toward a baking certificate from St. Paul College. Her Chocolate Cherry Walnut Bars, Summer Daisy Cake, Gluten-free Espresso Cookies and Almond Muffins all placed in the 2011 Minnesota State Fair. She currently lives in St. Paul with her two loyal cats Nigel and Mitts.

Leslee Miller is a dually certified Sommelier through the International Sommelier Guild & Court of Master Sommeliers. She is the sole owner of Amusée (www.amuseewine.com) based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After having spent time in the Pacific Northwest, working as director to Archery Summit Winery in Oregon and Board of Directors Member for sister winery, Pine Ridge of Napa ~ Leslee has returned to her Midwest roots, yet continues to work in her industry across the globe. www.amuseewine.com

Paulette Mitchell, the award-winning author of 13 cookbooks, is known internationally for her quick-to-prepare recipes with gourmet flair. Her most recently published book is The Complete 15-Minute Gourmet: Creative Cuisine Fast and Fresh. Paulette also is a well-traveled freelance writer. www.paulettemitchell.com

Kevin Ryan holds a graduate degree in gastronomy from Le Cordon Bleu and is the author of Betty Crocker Why It Works: Insider Secrets to Great Food. In addition, Kevin is currently a food scientist at General Mills.

Jeremy Reinicke did a stint at COPIA “The American Center for Wine Food and the Arts” in California’s Napa Valley, but returned to Minneapolis and accepted a position at the downtown tapas hot spot, Solera. Later he jumped at the chance to come on board with the crew at Cooks of Crocus Hill as the Cooking School Coordinator for the Edina location. Now he is a Chef Instructor at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.

John Seal has managed restaurants such as Cocolezzone, The St. Paul Grill and Pazzaluna. He now works at The Chianti Grille. John has been our single malt Scotch whiskey guru for as long as we’ve been friends.

Ann Ahmed emigrated from Laos when she was four, and she and her family have been in the restaurant business for 20 years. She owns and operates Lemon Grass in Brooklyn Park. www.lemongrassthaicuisine.net

Mike Shannon is one of our resident southern food resources. Prior to joining us, Mike left the dusty world of mechanical engineering to pursue a verdant, culinary life. He is a Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School graduate and leads our culinary programs.

Bonnie Sparrman inspires her students to bake and cook for the sole purpose of loving food and those we feed.  Her years of culinary teaching experience bring breadth and depth to creative food preparation.  Her style is approachable and infused with fresh and practical ideas gained while Bonnie studied in Sweden.

Mary Strickland Goetz joined the Cooks family in 2010 after moving to the Twin Cities from Chicago, where she earned her Culinary Arts degree at Kendall College. While in culinary school, Mary completed an apprenticeship in a Charleston, SC in a Tom Colicchio-run kitchen specializing in low country cuisine. Prior to enrolling at Kendall, Mary worked as a CPA for a Fortune 100 company. Mary, her husband John, and her faithful Airedale, Truman, live in St. Louis Park, MN.

Amy Thielen is a chef who worked in New York City at Bouley, Danube, DB Bistro Moderne, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s 66 and Cru. She develops recipes for Country Living Magazine, writes for the Minneapolis StarTribune Taste section and keeps a blog called Sourtooth at sourtoothjournal.blogspot.com.

Kevin Wencel has been a chef in many kitchens around town, including Alma and at Highland Grill, Edina Grill and Longfellow Grill. He was previously cooking school director here at Cooks. He is a wonderful food writer and culinary educator.

Deb Yanker Black is a 20 year veteran of the wine business and enjoys bringing her international knowledge of wines and vines (and stems!) back home to her neighbors at Cook’s. She is a wine representative of The Wine Company of St. Paul. www.artisanvineyards.com

Joe Zahner has a wonderfully storied culinary career. He’s been the executive chef at the Hazelden Foundation. He has also worked at Palomino, Ciao Bella and Zelo. Quick to laugh, Joe is a great presence in the kitchen. He currently travels the country to share his expertise with aspiring food service professionals.

Terry John Zila teaches cooking classes throughout the Twin Cities, and operates johnjeanjuan, a special-occasion cake business. He is a member of the IACP, and a master gardener for The Home Depot.