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Center expands to culinary arts

Drawing on skills she learned from her grandmother, Amy Earney of Red Wing gave up her "day job" in the public sector so she could pursue her passion -- cooking.

After graduating with highest honors from the Le Cordon Bleu College in Minneapolis and completing an internship at the Harbor View Café in Pepin, she spent three years getting hands-on experience as a chef at the Harbor View.

"It was a very positive experience," she said. "I loved every moment of it."

Now Earney is taking cooking to another level. Currently the chef for the international artist residency program at the Anderson Center at Tower View, she is adding to the roster of arts activities at Tower View.

Earney is offering a series of culinary arts events in the commercial kitchen at the Anderson Center residence starting Aug. 16. The three-hour evening sessions are open to anyone interested in learning the fine art of cooking.

"It's a labor of love," she said. "I have always loved cooking. ... I'm very lucky to have been able to do this."

Earney was inspired by her German grandmother. "She taught me to cook for my family over the phone," she said. Husband Steven and children Lindsay and Nicholas were fed meals made with fresh ingredients, prepared from scratch.

"She was a good cook," Earney said of her grandmother, although the Red Wing woman admits she didn't know how good until she attended culinary school herself and learned to appreciate those lessons in "old school" food preparation.

In her work today, Earney said, "I take local, sustainable ingredients and kick'em up from there."

She has taught Community Education classes and done both lectures and hands-on healthy cooking classes at Red Wing and Ellsworth high schools because she believes it's important to teach kids the value of fresh ingredients and food made from scratch.

A cookbook featuring her recipes, including the foods she prepared for her family over the years, will be published in a few weeks.

Her current role as Anderson Center chef prompted her to consider cooking events there.

"It is a lot of fun," Earney said, describing her plans for the three scheduled events. She has selected menus that call for "really nice ingredients, things in season. I do what I can with local ingredients."

At the Aug. 16 event the class will prepare blistered corn soup, crème fraiche, cucumber sandwiches, a fresh mixed greens salad, salmon wrapped in parchment paper, and a dessert of pound cake with bananas Foster and housemade ice cream.

The second event on Oct. 11 will feature an Italian menu: fresh melon wrapped in prosciutto, fresh pulled mozzarella, marinated olives, bruschetta, seafood ravioli or linguini and limon cello for dessert.

The final event on Dec. 13 will feature an "awesome" selection, she said: Nova lox smoked wild sockeye salmon, heirloom tomato salad, Indonesian blue crab-stuffed langoustine or prawns, tip steak, asparagus with Bearnaise sauce and a Golden Cadillac dessert drink to top it off.

For each meal Earney also will prepare an amuse bouche -- French for "to please the palate," she said. " It's a little treat from the chef."

People at the events will be involved every step of the way. She will present a short lecture, give a demonstration, then lead the group in preparing a dish that combines innovation and creativity with tradition -- all prepared with a contemporary flair.

After each course they will pause to enjoy the food and taste a few sips of a wine she has selected that pairs well with the food before starting the next dish.

"Everybody will do every course except the 'amuse bouche," Earney said.

Each event can accommodate up to 10 people. Both men and women are welcome, Earney said -- anyone who loves to cook or entertain, or who simply appreciates great food.

Cost is $50 per person for each of the first two events and $65 for the December event, or $150 for all three. For more information or to register, contact her at or the Anderson Center at 651-388-2009.