Karla’s Facebook page is a real feast
Everyone’s got their dark secrets; Karla Lacey’s might be Spam sandwiches with pineapple.
That was one of the first things she made living on her own as a young adult.
“That was when I was a student,” she said. “I don’t think I could touch the stuff now. But, when you are on a strict budget and living on your own, you do what you have to do and try to make things taste good.”
Decades later, her tastes are a lot more sophisticated. Her motto is: Life is too short to eat bad food.
Beef pot pies, lamb roasts and cioppino are just a few of the dishes she’s made for her Facebook page Karla’s Kitchen Table.
The aim of the page isn’t so much to teach cooking step by step, but to inspire. If she can cook five different soups in a single Saturday to freeze for the week ahead, so can you.
“It’s to show how you could do this if you could plan properly,” she said.
Cooking is her way to relax after a busy week as chief operating officer of the Bermuda Tourism Authority.
“What a wonderful way to spend my down time,” she said. “My house smells wonderful every weekend.”
“Cooking takes all my focus so the other part of my mind can rest,” she said. “When I go back to what I was doing before I started cooking, I have a fresh perspective.”
She doesn’t do much on the weekends other than cook.
“My friends know better than to invite me out,” she laughed. “They can come over and try some of my food, though. I post pictures of my meals as I’m cooking. You never know when there might be a knock at the door from someone looking for a taste.”
She cooks on a whim, without a lot of planning.
“I ask myself what do I feel like tasting this weekend,” she said. “I think about whether I want something that will last a couple of meals or do I just want to get something tasty on the plate quickly.
“Then, I look at what I can do differently this time. Sometimes it is about recreating something I did before.”
She published a cookbook in 2010 Karla’s Kitchen Table for All Seasons. Now, she’s hoping that the work she’s doing for the Facebook page will help her create a second book.
“For me, it is about the discipline of cooking on a regular basis and documenting what I feel would be helpful for someone. I get a lot of feedback from the Facebook page. Sometimes people message me and say they are cooking alongside me.”
Ms Lacey was born in Bermuda, but raised in Connecticut and later California.
The first thing she ever made was melted butter at the age of eight.
“I melted half-a-pound of butter in the pan to put on popcorn,” said Ms Lacey. “My mother wasn’t too pleased, as butter was expensive.”
But, Ms Lacey’s explanation was simple and heartfelt, “everything tastes better with butter on it”.
“My passion for cooking really started at about 15 when we moved to California,” she said. “Suddenly there were all these different types of food and cuisines around. There was sushi and real Mexican food. The more I ate and experienced other cuisines the more I wanted to recreate them at home. I just started practising.”
As a youth she loved cooking meat and dubbed herself “the Queen of Meat”. One of the first real dishes she mastered was Cornish hens stuffed with lemon and garlic. Ironically, her first husband was a pescetarian; the only meat he ate was fish.
Their two children were raised on the same diet.
“Today, I’m really good at cooking seafood,” she laughed.
But, she admitted that when her children were small, cooking was a bit of a grind.
“Children, by nature, like to eat the same things all the time,” she said. “You don’t really have your life back until they can feed themselves.
“When that happened, it really revived a lot of cooking for me.”
In 2003 she took a break from a career in banking to follow her cooking passion. She moved to Sacramento, California, “the food bowl of America”. While living there, she visited local farmers’ markets four or five times a week.
“People would follow me around and ask me what I was going to do with the vegetables I’d bought,” she said.
She noticed that despite all the cheap, fresh produce around, there were a lot of children in California with obesity issues.
As a result, she started Junior Chef to teach children about healthy eating and cooking.
The programme is now in other hands, but to date has reached 13,000 children.
After a few years, she returned to Bermuda and was named chief executive officer of the Bermuda Hospitality Institute in 2010, and then COO of the BTA four years later.
She is now remarried to Edgar Burrows. During the week, he handles most of the meal prep, often reheating what she froze over the weekend.
She hopes the Facebook page shows what can be achieved in a single day.
“I am just a woman who loves to cook and feed people,” she said. “You may not be able to be at my table, but at least you can recreate it at your own table.”
• For more information see her Facebook page Karla’s Kitchen Table.