Hi, I’m Jeanri. I am the owner of Cooking Up A Storm Culinary Experiences. I established my culinary business in 2004 to have a platform from which I could share my passion for everything to do with food with students of all ages in a fun and informal way. I had no idea when I started this journey where it would lead, but I’ve enjoyed every step of the way!
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an insatiable hunger to learn more about the ingredients, cooking methods and traditions of different cuisines. Of course also that of my own South African heritage. I traveled to foodie destinations such as France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany and the US to learn as much as I could by tasting their authentic dishes. Also their cheese, wine, bread, chocolate and pastries! Before the World Wide Web was at my fingertips, I read every recipe book that I could lay my hands on. I consequently have a vast collection of recipe books – there are too many to count! There are also too many recipes to attempt to test in this lifetime! But I gave it a good go and I refer to my collection often! I loved to try out new recipes and to experiment with new ingredients. I still do! Over the years I’ve developed my own style of recipe writing. At first, it was just for my classes. Later also for my website. I started writing articles on a variety of topics for my blog and foodie newsletters which I sent out regularly since 2012. I write about local and international trends that relate to food in some or other way, cool kitchen gadgets, cool food products, cool foodie events, etc. I of course always include mouthwatering recipes.
How it all began …
My culinary career only started later in my life. After completing a BA Hons degree at the University of JHB in 1996, I worked in Marketing and Customer Relationship Management at Standard Corporate & Merchanct Bank/Stanlib) for a couple of years before I decided to change my career path and make a profession of what was, at that stage, a hobby. Lucky for me, the experience I gained from working in the banking industry came in very handy. I am probably one of the most computer literate culinary teachers in the world!
It was when I enrolled for a Gourmet Cooking course in 2004 that I was introduced to Carolié de Koster’s popular Art Of Cooking Recipe book. The book was part of the course material. Despite all the recipe books I already had, I’ve never seen such a comprehensive recipe book! Especially not one written by a South African. I use my Art Of Cooking recipe book in my own kitchen on a daily basis. I remember like it was yesterday how awestruck I was when I paged through it for the first time. I was so impressed by the book that I had to meet the author, so I attended one of Carolié’s cooking demonstrations. After seeing Carolié in action, explaining complicated techniques to the attendees in her professional, yet soft-spoken manner, I decided to approach her for advice about starting my own culinary business. It was one of the best decisions of my life! I am forever indebted to Carolié for taking me under her wing and showing me the ropes of the food industry. A few weeks later I founded Cooking Up A Storm Culinary Experiences with her encouragement and support. What started out as a mentorship, turned into a friendship. Carolié has been one of the main contributors of recipes to my Foodie Newsletters since 2012. Many of Carolié’s recipes, both from the Art Of Cooking Recipe book as well as many others, can be found on my website. Carolié and her husband moved to New Zealand in 2013, but we keep in close contact. Carolié runs a cooking school from her home in Tauranga, NZ, called Carolié’s Culinaire, where she and her husband Adri hosts cheese making classes, cooking demonstrations, etc.
When I started my business venture in 2004 I initially only offered culinary demonstrations on a variety of topics to small groups at my house. The inspiration for this came from watching numerous episodes of celebrity chef Alan Coxon’s “Coxon’s Kitchen College”. I was amazed by his vast knowledge of ingredients and loved his interactive culinary demonstrations. It was not long before my culinary demonstrations evolved into what I called “Demo & Dinner” events, i.e. a culinary demonstration followed by a sit-down meal for groups of about 12 people. By the end of 2004 I started getting requests from clients and friends alike to do hands-on culinary sessions for private groups, both corporate and social, so I added hands-on culinary sessions as a service offering. It entailed that everyone helped prepare a variety of dishes according to a specific theme and enjoyed the fruit of their labour afterwards. Read more about my culinary demonstrations here.
In 2005, in response to a request from a friend, I developed a culinary course for beginners (specifically domestic workers) which covers topics such as basic culinary cooking methods and techniques, personal and food hygiene, meal planning, food storage, etc. I developed the course based on the principle that it is essential to master the basic culinary principles and techniques before tackling more complicated recipes. I decided that the format of the lessons should be one-on-one and the lessons should take place in the kitchens of private homes. It proved to be a winning strategy. Cooking Up A Storm Culinary Experiences was the first culinary school in South Africa to offer customised on-site one-on-one culinary lessons. Over the past 15 years I have trained hundreds of students – some were as young as 10 years and others over 70. Some booked a once off lesson, others booked as many as 50 lessons! Based on the success of these lessons, in 2010 I also developed a course for the staff of Guest Houses and Bed & Breakfast establishements. It entails that I provide culinary lessons to the kitchen staff as well as consulting on topics such as stock control, menu planning, kitchen layout, etc. to the management. Read more about my culinary lessons here.
In the same year I introduced a new leg to my business called Nutrition Tuition. It entailed doing culinary demonstrations and hands-on culinary sessions, one-on-one consultations, etc. on healthy eating. Initially it was only for people following a Low GI & Low Fat lifestyle, but in recent years I have expanded this service to include popular lifestyles such as Banting, Paleo, etc. as well. I also offer comprehensive meal plans based on a clients’ specific lifestyle (see Services for more info). I have worked closely with a couple of dieticians to teach their patients to cook in order to reach their goal weight, etc. Read more about Nutrition Tuition here.
After being inundated with requests from clients, both current and prospective, to do culinary parties for kids, I introduced it in 2013. Little did I know that the culinary parties would become one of my most popular service offerings! So much so that I sometimes do 3 parties per weekend! A culinary party entails that my team and I keep kids entertained with a culinary activity at a birthday celebration. The standard option, “I made it myself!” (“Ek het dit self gemaak!”) is aimed at kids aged 5 to 12. There is also a Masterchef option for kids 10 years and older. This type of party has a competition format and the kids compete as individuals or as teams for a prize. During the party the kids learn about kitchen hygiene, basic culinary methods, etc. They also learn to make a variety of recipes. Each recipe is demonstrated to the kids step-by-step and each child makes his/her own recipe from start to finish. Kids get to take the fruit of their labour home and tell Mom and Dad: “I made it myself!” Most of them eat it right away though! The success of the culinary parties can be ascribed to the fact that the items the kids make during the party can be customised to tie in with the theme of the party, whether it is a colour, a movie character or movie, a type of sport, a hobby, etc. Parents can also choose to have the party at their house or at a venue of their choice, e.g. a club house, restaurant, etc. I also started doing culinary workshops for kids during the school holidays. Read more about my culinary parties here.
In 2013 I was approached by Bedford Centre in Bedfordview to develop a culinary program (they call it a mall activation), for kids visiting the centre during the December school holidays. Mrs Claus’ Kitchen was born! It entailed that my team and I kept kids aged 2 to 12 years entertained with a culinary activity while their parents or caregivers could do their Christmas shopping. The kids made everything from Santa cupcakes, to snowman lolliepops and Gingerbread reindeer cookies. It was so popular that we hosted the event for between 10 and 19 days for four consecutive years at Bedford Centre (2013 to 2016). Following the success of Mrs Claus’ Kitchen at Bedford Centre, we also did Festive Season activities at Rosebank Mall (2016) and Easter activities at Rosebank Mall (2016 & 2017) and Clearwater Mall (2016). We also did a Minion-themed culinary activity during the July 2017 school holidays at Sandton City. See photo’s here.
In December 2016 I launched Gingerbread House workshops for kids (10+ years) and adults. Following the success of the Gingerbread House Workshops, I decided to introduce a new product called “D-I-Y Gingerbread House Kits” towards the end of 2017. Just in time for the Festive Season and the December school holidays! A kit consists of everything you need to build your own gingerbread house – from the ginger biscuit house panels to the icing to assemble and decorate the house. And of course lots of quality candy! It also comes with comprehensive, easy-to-follow instructions. Each kit is packed in a sturdy box and wrapped in gift wrap with a gift tag – ready to either be placed under the Christmas Tree or to pack on holiday. The kits make ideal Christmas gifts for friends, family and colleagues alike.
Since it was launched in 2017, hundreds of children (and adults!) have been assembling and decorating our 3D gingerbread houses with family, friends and colleagues. My houses are so popular because they are freshly baked and have no added preservatives. They are also 100% South African! Already assembled and decorated gingerbread houses can be ordered from my online shop. Read more about my “D-I-Y Gingerbread House Kits” here.
In September 2018 I expanded my “D-I-Y Gingerbread House Kit” product range. On top of my very popular Large D-I-Y Gingerbread House Kit, I also introduced the following items:
– a set of four mini 3D gingerbread houses, aka Mug Toppers
– a midi 3D gingerbread house
– jumbo gingerbread man cookie
All of the new items proved to be very popular and the kits were sold out by Christmas!
In 2019 I expanded my range and introduced the following items:
– a 3D gingerbread Santa’s sleigh
– a 3D gingerbread North Pole Express Train
– a 2D gingerbread Nativity Scene
All of the above items were popular.
In February 2020 I decided to do my first ever Easter-themed D-I-Y Cookie Decorating Kit. Orders started to stream in soon after I posted about it, but it came to an abrupt halt due to the lock down in South Africa which commenced on the 27th of March. I am happy to say that despite the lockdown, by October 2020 I introduced 11 new Festive Season-themed cookie kits. The new kits included a variety of Festive Season favourites … from snowflakes to candy canes, to Nutcrackers, baubles, reindeer and snowmen! It was a lot of fun to do!
I am based in Johannesburg (South Africa) but I am happy to venture further afield! I have traveled as far as Potch, Sasolburg, Warmbaths and even Houtbay to do either culinary demonstrations, hands-on sessions or parties at private houses, guest houses, restaurants and in church halls. Just let me know when and where and my team and I will be there! Talking about my team, I have a lovely group of about ten young girls (aged 12 to 22) who assist me on a part-time basis with my parties. Each and every one of them has been hand-picked by me. They love working with children. So do I!
I love what I do and I do what I love. My aim is to enrich the lives of my students and the lives of their employers (if relevant) in some way, whether big or small. But as the saying goes: “the proof is in the pudding …” Read Testimonials here.
I wouldn’t have been able to do what I do if it wasn’t for the love and support of my hubby Anton, our kids, Mia (14) and Emile (11) and close family. I am so blessed to have them in my life!
I am looking forward to sharing my passion with you!