By Cathy Jett The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.
Like many moms with a young child, Erin Simpson Lozier decided she needed to whip up a new career.
The former Better Homes & Gardens food editor wanted to work from her downtown Fredericksburg home so she could spend time with her toddler, Willa Claire.
"I decided to take a step back and see in what direction could I grow," Lozier said. "Why did I choose food to begin with? I love to cook for people, the social aspect of food. It creates an opportunity to be in the moment and brings so much delight to people. It's joyous, delightful and fun."
The result is a new focus that combines her love of food--the 35-year-old is a graduate of Johnson and Wales University's College of Culinary Arts--with her love of writing--she has a creative writing degree from Appalachian State University.
Lozier began by rebranding the website she'd started to chronicle her days as a newlywed. She'd followed her heart from Better Homes & Gardens' headquarters in Des Moines to Washington, where her husband-to-be was working at the time.
Renamed erinsimpsonlozier.com, the now hybrid personal/professional website features stories, recipes and a schedule of the cooking classes she's holding at nontraditional locations around the Fredericksburg area.
"My three intentions are to educate, to inspire and to foster community," Lozier said.
She also got involved with the local Tuesdays Together, a meetup held on the second Tuesday of every month. A part of The Rising Tide Society, it gives artists, bloggers, photographers and other creative entrepreneurs a chance to gather for coffee and discuss the challenges and rewards of their careers.
Some area residents may know Lozier from the workshop she held on making roasted strawberry buttermilk ice cream during First Friday last month at 25 30 Espresso on Princess Anne St. She also created a special dessert sandwich--a doughnut filled with coffee buttercream--for those who purchased a private table at last week's FXBG Sandwich Invitational in Hurkamp Park.
Her next culinary class, "The Art of the Harvest: Dinner and Creative Workshop," will be held today at 25 30 Espresso. The $75 fee covers instruction on preserving techniques and supplies needed to make two items to take home, a hand-stamped tea towel to make in the class, party favors and door prizes. The class will end with a seasonal dinner in the garden behind the coffee shop.
"I find that people enjoy having that kind of experience," said Lozier said. "It's more about the whole evening of socializing and learning."
She plans to do at least one workshop per season in settings such as the one at 25 30 Espresso. The key, she's found, is to make sure she has all the equipment she'll need.
Lozier hails from Lancaster, S.C., and said that Southern food traditions are ingrained in the way she cooks. She worked with author and chef Natalie DuPree on her James Beard Award-winning "The Art of Southern Cooking" cookbook, as well as the follow-up, "Southern Biscuits." Lozier's culinary roots are in the South, but she doesn't limit herself to strictly Southern fare.
"My cooking approach is more creative," she said.
The sample menu for today's workshop, for example, includes both heirloom tomato pie and basil panna cotta with watermelon.
The idea, Lozier said, is to teach techniques and show how to use things people are familiar with in new ways. That includes infusing panna cotta with basil instead of turning the herb into a pesto, or using peaches to make barbecue sauce instead of cobbler.
"Hopefully, people will walk away feeling inspired to try something new," she said, "and have the techniques to do it."