Hy-Vee cooking lessons attract the professionals

Jesse Batson

Jesse Batson

Do you ever get sick of campus food? Are you worried that your eating habits aren’t very healthy? Kari Prest, chef and coordinator for the cooking and lifestyles school at the Brookings Hy-Vee, suggests going to one of her weekly cooking classes held in the Club Room at Hy-Vee.

When Prest started at Hy-Vee two years ago, she never dreamt she would be in her current position of living her dream, she said.

With a history in teaching and a chef’s degree from a French cooking school in Tucson, Ariz., Prest now combines her love of both art and food two to three times a week.

“My first profession was teaching in art and it was kind of a nice marriage between the palate of the mouth and the … color palate. I loved presentation and doing that, so it was kind of a natural fit,” she said.

Prest, a 39-year chef veteran, got the idea to start teaching cooking classes last September and took it to Hy-Vee management. They pushed for the addition of the Club Room when Hy-Vee received an addition and a renovation late last year. Students prepare food in the Club Room, which is eqiupped with three convection ovens and state-of-the-art equipment.

After opening in January, an average of 12 to 18 people attend her cooking classes, including both men and women, ages 5 to 65, she said.

Each class has a different theme and Prest already has a year’s worth of themes lined up.

“I don’t sleep,” Prest said.

One of the ideas she got when she wasn’t sleeping was to give a class on cooking for college students living in the residence halls.

She teaches everything from the basics, like how to cut an onion, to more advanced dishes, she said.

Her ideas come from a variety of sources, including cookbooks, her time at the Tucson school and her own trial and error.

“That’s the part I love – the creating,” Prest said. “There really is no right or wrong.”