For Ofri Gilan, 41, who grew up in a Kibbutz in Isreal, food is her true passion in life.
In fact, after receiving her master’s degree in Urban Design from Harvard University in Boston, Gilan today finds herself living in Asheville with her family, working part time as a food professional.
“I’m an urban designer, but it’s the type of work that comes and goes,” Gilan said. “I like to have cooking in my life— I enjoy it so much.”
While Gilan has no formal training in the culinary arts, she has years of traveling experience and knowledge that she has gained working in many different types of kitchens. She has traveled to Asia, India, and Thailand, where she took cooking workshops, and she also spent her college years working in Italian and Middle-Eastern style restaurants.
Today, these experiences have translated into something truly unique in the Asheville area — Ofri’s Home Cooking, a boutique cooking school that also offers chef services.
“I wanted to maintain cooking as part of my life,” Gilan said. “ I just feel like there’s a lack of Middle-Eastern cooking here in Asheville — that style of cooking is not very common. But it’s such a rich culture of food and it’s so interesting.”
Growing up in a Kibbutz — a self-sustained community in Israel, much like a farm — Gilan is no stranger to growing food and cooking with fresh ingredients.
“I’ve pretty much cooked my whole life,” she said. “We grew everything we cooked. Everyone worked together and lived together, and I was third generation. We worked even as kids, and everyone contributed to the community in some way.”
Today, Gilan offers hands-on cooking classes, catering, and also is in the process of coordinating a culinary tour. She also found that she was passionate about helping people with dietary restrictions find new, healthier ways to cook, and offers one-on-one cooking with clients.
“I think it’s a way of almost traveling somewhere without traveling,” Gilan said about trying new cuisines. “And trying a different culture. It’s also really nice to meet other people — it’s a different kind of experience.”
Ofri’s Home Cooking offers cooking classes with a plethora of themes. Some of Ofri’s most popular classes include Indian cooking, Chinese homestyle and Israeli cooking.
Gilan also offers lessons in Israeli cooking, Thai cooking, Mezze — which is Mediterranean style tapas, Moroccan and Italian cooking, and she also draws cooking inspiration from Egypt, Turkey, Spain. Gilan also offers courses on farm to table cooking, and she is hosting a class this month called “Thanksgiving made different,” where Gilan will show the class different ways to cook with classic Thanksgiving food.
While she admits to loving to cook many things, Gilan said her favorite thing to cook is vegetable dishes.
“I like cooking vegetables in all different forms,” she said. “I like to have a lot of color. In my classes, when we finish plate, it has a lot of colors and is very vibrant.”
The cooking school offers hands-on classes for couples and individuals, but lately, Gilan has been teaching cooking classes for private groups made up of four-10 people at a time. The groups are still small enough that classmates can get to know each other or ask lots of questions.
Each class has a theme that corresponds to a holiday, season or a cookbook, and will teach how to make anywhere from three to six dishes — depending on complexity and number of participants.
Classes are allowed to taste the food thought the session, and a meal is served at the end of the class. All recipes are very simple and easy to follow.
Gilan still collaborates with architect firms in Asheville and Hendersonville, but she finds a lot of her joy in working with food, and making her culinary dreams a reality.
Gilan has a flexible schedule and can hold classes during the day or in the evenings. She also is willing to teach classes at other homes or businesses outside of her current location at 332 E. Sondley Drive in Asheville.
Anyone who would like to sign up for a cooking class with Gilan or to learn more about the school should visit www.ofrishomecooking.com and email her through the website or call 1-917-566-5238.
By Shelby Harrell