We partner with some incredible local talents for our classes and some of our retail selections. In our ongoing Extended Family series, we want to showcase their work and provide a glimpse inside their personal story.
Erin Coopey is a cookbook author and local instructor. She has been teaching Knife Skills and Chicken Fundamentals classes at Book Larder for years. Get a ticket to her next class or purchase her books here!
Let’s start out with the basics, where are you from and what do you do?
I grew up in Wisconsin but have lived in many places including – Phoenix, Washington DC, San Francisco Bay Area and Yamagata, Japan. I am a chef, cookbook author and food photographer but my passion is teaching!
What do you love about your job/business?
I love helping people to learn to cook. I believe that cooking is fun or at least it should be! I try to come up with tips, tricks and information that can make people feel like, “Yeah, I can do that!” My whole goal is to make cooking fun, easy, fun, and non-intimidating.
How long have you been in business?
I’ve been in business since 2006. I started a high-end dinner parties for two to 30 guests – multiple courses, delicious food, intense flavors, exquisite preparations and perfectly paired wines. I worked for some amazing clients and it was a blast.
Around that same time, I was asked to teach in the professional culinary program at Scottsdale Community College. I found that I loved teaching. I love talking food. Learning new techniques. Tasting unique ingredients. Diving into new cultures. I was hooked and over the years the teaching became my priority.
How has your business evolved?
So much of what I do evolved naturally from my passions and past experience. For example, my father is a professional photographer and tried for years to get me into the family business. I resisted. It wasn’t until culinary school that I found myself drawn to photography. I wanted to capture magazine/cookbook quality images of food. I fell in love with every image. I almost enjoyed creating the perfect image as much as I love cooking.
Writing was a natural offshoot for me too. My mother, Judith Redline Coopey, is a novelist so perhaps some of her talent rubbed off on me. Back in 2009, I was asked to create a food blog for a marketing company called SheSpeaks.com. I started writing more and more recipes and tips. Eventually, I was approached by a publisher about writing a cookbook. Now I have two cookbooks under my belt as well as numerous contributions to cookbooks, magazines and online publications.
I still do private chef/catering work from time to time but, the truth is, everything else keeps me pretty busy!
What cookbook do you reference most often (in general or just lately)?
I’m a huge cookbook fan. My collection dates to the mid-1800’s. I think it’s really fun to see what was in style, so to speak, in food. I’m particularly tickled by the crazy recipes from the 1950’s and 60’s. Who doesn’t think Jell-o when someone mentions salad?! Back in 1993, I got a copy of The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. I fell in love. Although styles change and fads decline, I still love that cookbook. The Market Street Meatloaf will make you change your mind about meatloaf forever! The pizza dough and sauce recipes are solid winners. I love the marinade for chicken fajitas. The side bars are great too. It’s just one of those books that will always have a special place in my heart.
If you could take any cooking class, what would it be?
If I could take any cooking class, I’d definitely expand my knowledge of traditional Mexican food. I co-owned a culinary tour company in Mexico called Culinario de Mexico in Manzanillo. I learned so much but really only scratched to surface. Most of my experience is with Northern Mexican and North Pacific Coast foods including grilled meats, and seafood, cheeses, and fresh salsas. I’d love to learn more about various regional specialties like complex and layered flavors Oaxacan Moles or the pit-roasted pibils (spiced-smeared meats wrapped in banana leaves) of the Yucatan.