Cooking demos leave customers hungry for more
MIDDLEBURY — When Natacha Liuzzi was in high school, she got kicked out of Home Ec class for being a bit of a know-it-all. After growing up watching her mother and grandmother cook, Liuzzi was a little too advanced in the kitchen for her high school classmates.
Today, Liuzzi brings the same love of cooking that got her booted out of class to her job at Kiss the Cook in downtown Middlebury. Liuzzi has worked alongside fellow employee Pamela Martin since she started in 2017. Martin has been with the store since it opened. Brandon residents will be happy to see that while their kitchen store may have closed down, Pamela, their beloved kitchen expert, is still on the job.
Together, these two women make a dynamic duo.
“We laugh a lot,” said Liuzzi, comparing herself and Martin to the “I Love Lucy” TV show. “We’re like Lucy and Ethel sometimes.” When asked, she didn’t specify who was Lucy and who was Ethel. But she did say that sometimes they get each other laughing so hard, the big deep belly laughs that leave you gasping for breath, that they just hope a customer doesn’t come in at that moment looking for help.
“This is a happy place to work,” said Liuzzi, describing her and Martin’s time at the store with a shimmer of joy in her eyes. Even just recounting some of their inside jokes, the two women start to giggle.
At the very back of the kitchen store sits a lone wooden table. Bathed in warm light, Liuzzi knew this was the perfect spot to share her love of cooking with others.
Starting last February, Liuzzi and Martin have been running cooking demos in the back of the store. Some they run themselves, and others they bring in special guests to lead.
“It’s like throwing a party” Liuzzi said about having guests come in, “you just have to show up and make sure they have everything they need.” Some guests such as Anne Haynie Collins author of Vintage Pies and Food Network’s Gesine Bullock-Prado who signed her book Fantastical Cakes do a combined book signing and cooking demo.
The number of people who attend the demos varies from just a few spectators, to a room full of 20 or more. A couple Thursdays ago, Liuzzi and Martin lead a demo on how to make Garlic Scape Pesto.
Within minutes, the two had whipped up a batch of the brilliantly green spread, energetically chatting the whole time, while explaining the recipe.
“Recipes are a jumping off point,” Liuzzi said as she added handfuls of herbs, almonds and cheese. There are no hard and fast rules in their world of cooking. That day’s pesto recipe was a combination of recipes they had used in the past, with their own unique twists and tweaks. Whenever they make a new recipe, the two will test it out before the demo to work out any kinks.
“She is something else in the kitchen,” Martin said admiringly watching her friend toss, sprinkle and drizzle ingredients into the mixer, all while barely touching a measuring tool.
The two women constantly mentioned other local businesses whose products they use. They proudly displayed Against the Grain gluten free bread, based in Brattleboro, as an option to taste the pesto on, and they offered Middlebury’s Vermont Coffee Company brew to onlookers.
For these women, it’s about more than just the food (which, in case you were wondering, is pretty delicious).
“People come in and enjoy each other’s company, it’s almost like a meeting,” Liuzzi said. These demos are an opportunity for people in the community to come together and chat with each other. Anyone who comes in as a stranger, is likely to leave as a friend.”
When asked if these demos are their favorite part of their job, the answer was surprisingly “no.” They said that the best part of their job is getting to help customers and find a way to make them happy.
“The events are the icing on the cake,” Liuzzi said.
Middlebury College student Anna Spiro and her friend Allie White attended the demos during this past school year. “When we’re feeling tired from school, it’s so refreshing to walk into town, try some food, and talk to new people,” said Spiro, a junior Neuroscience/Computer Science double major. “We think they’re the best.”
So watch out, because Luizzi and Martin’s delicious food and sunny natures just might leave you wanting to “Kiss the Cook(s).”
Editor’s Note: Today, July 25, the duo will be hosting a demo making Italian sodas, and Alice & the Magician Cocktail Apothecary will be having a mocktail sampling on July 26. More events and info can be found on the Kiss the Cook Middlebury Facebook page.