Five years ago, Cindy McClelland and Mary Jurkonis were sitting on numerous community boards when they got tired of sitting. It was time for them to move to ‘doing.’ Considering their love of cooking and baking, and their support for Project MANA’s effort to reduce hunger and its detrimental effects in the Tahoe region, becoming the Tahoe Cooking Queens was a win-win situation. Between cooking classes and private parties, the Queens donate the majority of their profits to Project MANA while teaching everyone from age 16 to 80 how to laugh, have fun, and get their hands dirty while overcoming their fear of cooking food at home. I sat down with Her Royal Highness McClelland to dish about reigning over recipes and their belief that ‘eating is not a privilege.’

Moonshine Ink: What can you expect when you sign up for a class?
Cindy McClelland: You can expect lots of food. [Laughs.] It varies if it’s hands-on, or not hands-on. It depends on the crowd, because sometimes even if we say ‘hands-on class,’ we can’t get people up out of their chairs. They’re just sitting, having a glass of wine, watching what’s going on, visiting, you know, it’s a social event. We always have cookbooks to take home so they have the recipes. We usually make appetizers, entrees, typically a salad or side dish, and three or four desserts. We love to do this — it’s a good excuse to make all this stuff, and typically there is enough for people to take home, too. … It’s a very nice little social event for foodies.

MI: What is the one tool every home cook should have in his or her kitchen? Can you give us a motorized one and a non-motorized one?
CM: A microplane [grater], because those are fabulous; and a nonmotorized one has got to be a mixer.

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MI: As a Cooking Queen, what would you say is your signature style?
CM: Approachable, accessible. Even non-cooks go away [from the classes] with something that they can make. It is the accessibility, something that people can feel like they own. Everyone should have a specialty, something they can make if they are having someone over.

MI: What advice could you give for a hesitant home cook?
CM: Not to take yourself so seriously! Because what’s the worst thing that can happen? It’s horrible, so you go out to dinner? That’s not so bad! Don’t be afraid to try things. People see all these ingredients and freak out. Take it one step at a time. You’d be surprised — if you can read and follow directions, you can cook!

The Queens are going to be releasing their spring/summer schedule with plans for classes on hearty soups and stews, fish skills, and more. You can book the Queens for a private cooking party in your home. Info: 760 Mays Boulevard, Incline Village, (775) 831-1907, tahoecookingqueens.com

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