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Food & Wine

Quality with simplicity: Los Altos Hills' Kate Chomko brings people together with 'elegant


Kate Chomko has always been a food addict. It took moving to Belgium and experiencing the "quality food" in Europe to inspire her to pursue her aspiration of becoming a chef.

"I was hooked and ate my way through Europe," Chomko said. "The fish, fruit and vegetable markets, bread, wine - every day was a feast."

Chomko, a Los Altos Hills resident since 1998, trained at the Le Cordon Bleu culinary arts school in London. She now a cooking instructor at Purcell Murray's Culinary Lifestyle Center in Brisbane where she teaches classes about entertaining with food and wine.

"I think my style is, as Purcell Murray describes it, elegant entertaining," said the mother of three daughters. "Food and people are my favorite things and bringing those together are natural for me."

Chomko said most of the people who attend her classes love food, but the cooking process can often intimidate some of the students.

"I try to stress how to simplify the whole process," she said. "You can create wonderful meals with simple basic ideas like mixed greens and a basic vinaigrette - then adding fruits, nuts, cheeses, olives - to build more complex salads.

"California offers a bounty of fresh foods and seafood year round enabling me to work within a healthy flavorful spectrum."

She also advises people to forgo dinner parties occasionally and instead have guests over for dessert and wine.

"I really try and encourage people to entertain and celebrate eating together at whatever their culinary comfort level."

When her children were younger Chomko belonged to a gourmet group in Chicago where guest chefs taught cooking classes.

"I used to sit there and think: 'Gosh, I could teach and cook better than that!' "

Chomko enjoys the beauty of food - the presentation of it - the colorful bowls, platters and table linens. "It's a way to express creativity," she said.

Chomko plans many of her classes around her favorite dishes, southern European and Mediterranean foods and wine. She also follows the fish cycle and builds many meals around salmon, halibut, crab and tuna seasons.

"One of my favorite classes to teach is Nicoise salad with fresh albacore tuna because I never got that in Chicago where I grew up," she said. "But Chicago did give me chili and rib recipes to die for."

The chef also teaches in her home, where she said her kitchen is a work in progress.

"It's a very pleasant kitchen to work in and has lots of light and space," Chomko said. "The kitchen was once the soul of the home, and I love that."

Purcell Murray has inspired her to replace all her appliances. The one kitchen appliance she would never do without is her food processor because "it saves so much time."

"I'm sort of a purist, so I don't have tons of bells and whistles in fancy pots and pans," she said. "Instead I'm more likely to focus my attention on my herb and vegetable garden."

Chomko currently is working toward a wine certificate. In the future, she plans to establish her own cooking school.

"Food nourishes the mind, body and soul, and it should be a happy time of sharing the day, stopping for awhile to enjoy and celebrate our lives," she said. ââ€"Å 

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