Diane LaVonne is the owner of Diane’s Market Kitchen in Seattle. A cooking class at her school is a highlight of our Seattle Culinary tour.
Q. Diane, you’re the owner of Seattle cooking school, Diane’s Market Kitchen. What made you decide to open a cooking school? Can you tell us a little bit about your life before the Kitchen?
A. I am a unique combination of conventional learning and life experience, all of which I offer to my guests at Diane’s Market Kitchen. I’m a UNM-educated anthropologist/historian from the Midwest who has lived a number of iterations in my 60+ years. Growing up in Minnesota with dairy farmer grandparents and spending much time on their small farm in the 50’s, I learned the lessons of self -reliance and respect for the animals and the farmland that supported them. During my childhood and formative years, I experienced the dramatic shift from small family farms to mega-agribusiness ownership and “management” of much of the acreage of the Midwest.
After college, I worked for several Fortune 500 companies anchored in the health care industry. These positions taught me about the business models and purposes of many health care product and delivery companies, and ultimately led to my expertise in training and developing others. I moved on to being a primary care-giver for my children, owned a successful catering business, instructed martial arts, and participated in my community as a member of a school board overseeing 15,000 students.
Q. Are you originally from the West Coast? If not, what made you decide to settle there?
A. I grew up in Minnesota, was schooled in New Mexico and was then promoted to a job on the East Coast. After a year of being the only female executive in a Fortune 500 company I decided that it was not a good fit for me. The only job available outside of the corporate headquarters was a management position in Seattle. I took it.
Q. Have you trained as a chef, or was your experience gained through life experience?
A. I am self taught. I always loved good food and never had any money so I taught myself how to cook.
Q. We’ve heard that your cooking classes are a lot of fun. Do you get a lot of tourists taking your classes or is your clientele mostly locals?
A. Most of my clients are local. I have 2 distinct demographics—the 20-30 somethings who have never learned to cook and because of changes in their lives have decided that they want or need to learn to cook and the 50 somethings who are done feeding their children and now want to cook for enjoyment.
I also have gone from teaching primarily open enrollment classes to 2-3 private events per week. Most of them are hosted by locals who may be bringing in their team members, clients, families or friends.
Q. You believe in using local ingredients in your cooking whenever possible. What kind of suppliers have you built close relationships with?
A. I can tell you the first names of virtually every producer of every ingredient from my veggies fruit, cheese, meat, and fishermen.
Q. Are you affiliated with Pike Place Market in any way?
A. I have been a shopper there for 35 years and take chef tours through the market as well as being a part of a grant which provides free cooking classes to low income seniors who live in the market.
Q. Why should someone take a class with you?
A. Why should someone learn to cook with locally produced ingredients? To improve their general health and well being and support those whose first priority is not to shareholders but rather their stakeholders.
Why is preparing and sharing food important? Because it is the “glue” that binds us together as a society. It is where shared memory is created and our first lessons in civility and cultural norms are transmitted.
Why my kitchen? Because it was designed to look and feel like a home kitchen in order to put people at ease.
Why me? I am very good at what I do. That’s not ego it’s owning a gift that I was given. I’m a great teacher and that’s a gift that should be put to use.
Editor’s note: We will be offering our Seattle Culinary Tour again in 2018. Contact us if you’d like to be notified when registration is open.
All photos supplied by Diane LaVonne