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Conversations with Edie Dourleijn

Today we’d like to introduce you to Edie Dourleijn.

Hi Edie, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I’m Edith Dourleijn (Edie for short), owner of creative cook co. In my teens and twenties, I was a super picky eater and now I teach people how to cook great food.

I grew up on homemade food but wasn’t fond of the Holy Trinity of Dutch food: boiled potatoes, boiled vegetables and some meat. The list with foods that I liked was sooo much shorter than the list with ingredients I didn’t. The older I got, the more embarrassed I felt by this. Then I left home for college and since cooking is the cheapest way to feed yourself, I found myself in the kitchen almost every night. After a while cooking became more of an ‘inner must’, a relaxing and exciting outlet after a day behind the computer. I was experimenting with new recipes, new flavors and yes, also new ingredients and even the foods I thought I didn’t like.

I’ve come to understand that learning to cook is mainly to learn what you like to eat. What are the textures, flavors, but also what cooking techniques that excite your tastebuds? Now I eat and cook everything, teaching others cooking is fun and not that hard at all.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
At some point, I wanted to become a good cook, and for me that was someone who could make a nice meal out of seemingly nothing. I realized I needed to connect the dots to really understand what I was doing. A cooking course that would teach me this didn’t exist, so I ended up at culinary school. And designed and taught curious home cooks all I had learned the next year.

While I was working as a Sociologist, studying what people thought of all kinds of things using survey research, large data sets and advanced statistics, I tried to figure out what I really wanted to do with my love for food and cooking. I was one of the first food bloggers of the Netherlands, was a recipe writer and did some other writing on food in general.

After moving to California, I decided to focus more on teaching cooking classes. Do I want to open my own cooking studio, cook with students in my home kitchen or theirs? What do I want to teach? I already knew I focused mostly on joy and having fun in the kitchen. Getting the word out of my cooking classes was, and still is, the hardest part.

Going virtual for all the obvious reasons was a great new step and made me realize that I’m not necessarily restricted to San Diego home cooks for my type of cooking classes. So at this moment, I am figuring out how I can turn my desire to teach people really how to cook in a virtual cooking course and a cookbook. It will focus on learning to cook without recipes and actually understanding what you are doing in your pots and pans.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
In short, it’s my goal to encourage my students and help them become a confident and more creative cook. I coach them and host all kinds of cooking classes. I choose the name creative cook co for my company to tell my students I focus on the fun part of cooking. I am a one woman show and am known for creating a fun atmosphere in the kitchen where no question is too silly.

Creativity in the kitchen, to me, is all about playing with your food but then in an adult way. My food is mostly inspired by the cuisines around the Mediterranean Sea, but I sometimes create new dishes inspired by growing up in the Netherlands too. During the class, I love to talk about the background of the dish and its ingredients. I explain the main cooking techniques and hope to inspire my students to get creative. I even dare them not to follow my recipes to the letter and start to improvise a bit. One way of doing so is by suggesting alternatives for ingredients that fit their dietary preferences or simply to use an ingredient they already have in their pantry. After all, they will be eating the dish, so it better is something that they’ll like. That’s what playing with food is all about!

Besides that, being creative in the kitchen is not restricted to food only. I also am constantly looking for new and creative ways to cook or be in a kitchen together. For team building cooking classes, we cook a fun meal just for the fun of it, but I also cooperate with a real teambuilding expert to turn cooking together into a unique meaningful experience that makes the team aware of interpersonal communication and cooperation. Currently, I am also working on extending the fun things we can do in the kitchen for events like a corporate wellness week.

When I cook with family and friends, it’s often to celebrate a birthday, anniversary or any other special occasion. Sometimes there’s something they really want to learn to master, which is often a reason for a one-on-one class too. Whatever the goal my students have with when booking a cooking class with me, they will always have fun and learned something. I love to create an unforgettable event that they will remember for years to come.

We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
Yes! Every new situation gives new challenges and opportunities alike. You lose some, you win some. I had to go virtual with my cooking classes, and I ended up cooking with people not only from all over the US but also from Europe, Israel, Brazil and even as far as India and Australia! It made me realize that people who like my style are everywhere, and I am not restricted to my location per se. With things opening up again, I love to do both in-person and virtual cooking classes and keep on playing with food with as many people as possible.

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Credit: Edie Dourleijn

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