Cooking with the seasons

Anna Dvorak, a cooking and wellness enthusiast who teaches classes in Minneapolis, released her “Nourish: Winter” e-book Dec. 1.

The e-book is the first of four seasonally inspired cookbooks, with the spring, summer and fall editions due next year. The Southwest Journal spoke with Dvorak in November.

Southweset Journal: Tell me a little about your background.

Anna Dvorak: Well, I’m actually an artist, but I’ve been a lifelong home cook. I’ve always had a healthy diet and I’ve always maintained a healthy diet.

I made a big transition four years ago to teaching full time, to going more into the wellness theme — so, teaching cooking classes [at Kitchen Window] and leading retreats.

What was it like coming from an artistic background? How does somebody get into wellness in general, and where did that passion come from? 

The passion came from wanting to make good decisions for myself.

I knew since I was 13 I didn’t want to eat meat. … I really loved foods that were inspired by global flavors, so I always have done my own food research on how to take great recipes that are out there and all these different food traditions, and translate them into meat-free recipes. …

Cooking has always been really creative for me, but the transition that happened was that instead of waiting until 5 o’clock to honor that creative process or to bring it into the same level of importance in my life, I brought it more up to the level of how I create my art. So, I made it just as important as the creative process of art making.

Can you talk about the classes that you teach, and how that grew?

I was [teaching] these classes out of my home — like six people at my kitchen counter — and I was getting to this place of total burnout because I was begging people to come to these classes. …

I was just about to quit, and then I went to this healthy foods, healthy living conference that the U of M put on the first time a couple years ago, and the keynote speaker was Mark Bittman. … When Bittman got up to speak, his basic message was: Let’s just get people to cook more because it’s the only way we’re going to get them to eat better.

So, hearing him speak just kind of lit the fire back in my belly about getting out there and pushing harder to make my message heard about good, healthy ways — but really delicious ways — to eat more vegetables, and making it really easy for people to do it.

Where do you get most of your inspiration? 

A lot of traveling. I’ve traveled pretty extensively.

It’s from taking big foodie trips to San Francisco or New York City where you can get some mind-blowing flavors. We spend a lot of time in the Southwest, so I get a lot of inspiration from down there. … 

Turkey was one of the best places to travel to as a non-meat eater. Vegetables are super-prominent on their table, and everything was always fresh and delicious. That was a highlight.

Japan kind of opened my eyes to different ways to eat vegetables I had never thought about.

Tell me a little about your wellness retreats. 

I love doing them because they are a way for me to combine all the things I’m interested in. I’m a nurturer. I love to take care of the people around me.

I do them in groups of about six to 10 people, and I rent a private cabin so it feels really cozy, and cook really healthy foods that are intentionally put together for the weekend based on the time of year. … And all of these things are based in guiding these women toward a way of living that most people want to achieve in their lives but don’t have the time or energy or the resources to put all together and know what it really feels like to do all the things right for a couple days. And the light bulbs all go off after the third day. They react really positively.