The art-size framed black-and-white still photograph titled “Chocolate Filled,” taken from the an episode of “I Love Lucy,” says it all.
Lucy and Ethel, cheeks stuffed and bulging with chocolates, silently oversee the proceedings in the compact demonstration area of the Crafty Kitchen in Westminster.
The cove is set up in the style of a television cooking program. Overhead mirrors allow the audience, seated around the cook, to closely observe the goings-on from every angle.
“The only difference is that our setting is a little more intimate and students can ask questions at any time,” said Virginia Jenkins, who owns the burgeoning business. “Oh, and at the end, we all get to sample the food.”
For Jenkins, the enterprise began 11 years ago in a 700-square-foot storefront on Bolsa Avenue. “It all started out as a hobby,” she recalls. “About 20 years ago, a friend asked me to help out temporarily on a part-time basis as a decorator. Ten years later, I left to start my own business.”
With a decade of experience decorating desserts, she had it in mind to turn that expertise into commerce by selling molded sugar items for wedding cakes. But her husband, Bill, talked her into stocking a store with cake-making items. Within a year and a half, the store portion was out-grossing her brainchild.
“Those sugar items took a lot of time and didn’t make too much money,” she says, laughing. “But when I started carrying supplies, I also held cake-decorating classes and candy-making classes. The students bought merchandise and spread the word about the classes.” In 1989, she moved the store to its current, larger location, added cooking classes and the demonstration room.
The cooking sessions turned out to be so successful that Jenkins now produces a schedule of classes twice yearly. They are sent to students on her mailing list or requested by cooking hobbyists who see classes advertised in the food sections of newspapers.
Classes range from $2 to $45 and offer such delectable dishes as classic French sauces and do-ahead French dinners; Thai, Italian and Vietnamese dinner parties; what to do with chicken and holiday cooking (including how to make gingerbread houses and candy bar trains), as well as the backbone of the business--cake decorating and candy making.
“Most people want to know how to plan a dinner party, or do something special for a birthday or anniversary. They want us to hand them a menu and say, ‘OK, go for it.’ They want a lot of do-ahead items also. With the classes, they can relax, watch, ask questions, taste everything made in class and get the recipes. And if they like it, they can make it,” said Jenkins.
But some are old hands at cooking and baking, and just come in for supplies. The front of the Crafty Kitchen is generously stocked with baking and candy-making supplies: toys to decorate cakes, molds for making suckers and filled chocolates, commercial frostings and cake fillings, pans, thermometers, racks, plus gold candy boxes and pink cake boxes.
“I prefer home-baked cakes--sometimes the bakery’s desserts are too sweet,” said Joanne Hanick, who came in to add a few candy molds to her collection. “Besides, it adds a nice personal touch. I made candies for Halloween and sent them to my son at UC Santa Barbara--they were a big hit. It feels real good to be able to do something special like that.”
Lucy and Ethel would approve.
Hours: Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Sunday
Address: 15667 Brookhurst St., Westminster
Telephone: (714) 531-9504
Miscellaneous Information: Classes are generally held in the evenings, beginning at 6:30 or 7 p.m. The two-day class on how to make a gingerbread house will be held Dec. 2 and 3 at 7 p.m.; the candy bar train class is Dec. 9 at 7 p.m.