Jeri Kopecky baked her first cake with her mother in the kitchen of her family's home in Ennis, a city south of Dallas. Batter wasn't the only thing transformed by the heat of that oven, and after years of helping her mother decorate cakes for friends and neighbors, Jeri took it upon herself to make her passion her career. In 1998, she bought a cake shop, expanded its size to 4000 square feet, and leapt into business for herself. One short year later, her own daughter Kelli joined her in the baking business, and the pair now whip up multilayer bridal cakes and creative birthday cakes for their ever-growing neighborhood. Cake Carousel's ample kitchens also provide a venue for eager students to come and learn the decorating techniques that have twice been passed from mother to daughter. Basic classes teach everything from leveling batter to simple frosting-piping techniques, and students in advanced sessions sculpt complex sculptures out of fondant or learn the elements of design behind a cookie bouquet. Several instructors aid Jeri and Kelli in keeping their year-round calendar of classes running. Occasional guest and celebrity sugar artists—such as Lauren Kitchens, various Food Network chefs, or a peanut-flavored fondant sculpture of George Washington Carver—supplement the lineup with classes in their particular specialties. The candy and cookie store also offers supplies for cake, candy-making, and cookies such as gelatin, isomalt, fondant, and gum-paste.
Matthew and Heather Hamilton believe in local beef. Trading in corporate jobs to raise their own cattle in 2009, the couple began Genesis Beef, and eventually opened Local Yocal Farm to Market, a butcher shop selling free-range beef and pasture-raised pork, chicken, and eggs. The two haven’t looked back since.
Local Yocal Farm to Market’s grass-fed cattle meander across the Hamilton family farm, where their caretakers swap out growth stimulants and antibiotics in favor of fresh air. At the shop, an in-house butcher with more than 25 years of experience ages and cuts beef to customer specifications. Visitors can partake in some of this expertise during classes that teach beef lovers the difference between a sirloin, a filet, and a rubber steak covered in dog drool. In addition to top cuts of meat, the shop’s shelves also bear the fruits of other locally sourced businesses, including Full Quiver Cheeses and Drinkable yogurts, Aduro Bean coffees, and AP's Apiaries Honey.
Stamp Asylum's stationery school equips aspiring card makers with all the necessary supplies and knowledge to craft three custom cards. During each Friday-night class, an experienced stamp sensei teaches technicolor techniques for rendering single-fold salutations or blueberry-muffin ransom notes. Arts-and-crafts accouterments include Tim Holtz distress inks, Hero Arts rubber stamps, cardstock, and all the snippers and adhesives needed to construct Caldecott-medal-winning works of literature. Up to a dozen DIY card designers attend each class, crafting envelope stuffers sized for standard Forever stamps. To enable participants to craft works of art that can evoke emotion from even the most stone-faced clowns, each class includes all of the necessary card-making supplies and tools.
No More 'To Go' is the product of more than a decade's worth of meal planning by busy mom Stacey. She's taken her family's favorite healthy dinners and compiled them into an easily shareable format, complete with shopping lists and tips on how to make each dish vegetarian, gluten-free, or suitable for astronauts. Stacey believes in the benefits of gathering around the dinner table each evening, citing the higher nutritional value of home-cooked eats when compared with that of fast food, as well as the opportunity to bond with kids and instill in them fancy table manners.
Sokolata owner Olina Nikolini carried two things with her throughout her career: a love for her family’s sweet confections and the recipes used to make them. Through the years, she’s throughout Europe, tasting the local flavors and broadening her palate. A trip across the pond to the United States brought her even more opportunities to sample different creations, and as her knowledge grew, she tailored her family’s recipes to bolster their flavor. Today, Olina draws upon her experiences to fashion gourmet, organic handmade chocolates enlivened with natural and sugarless ingredients such as cocoa powder, honey, nuts, and a variety of tantalizing fillings, such as pumpkin, Texas pecan, and imaginary friend–endorsed air.
"Gardens are a lot like people,” Marilyn Simmons told Now Magazines. “As they grow and mature, they come into their own.” Marilyn and her daughter Donelle, owners of Garden Inspirations, have their own unique plot. “A Radio Flyer wagon is home to an assortment of flowers and trailing potato vines and an herb garden is flourishing in a nonfunctioning barbecue grill.”
At their farm, the two work to show pupils how to plant their own beds with pesticide-free veggies, which blossom into sources of personal pride. The full schedule of classes includes introductory courses on overcoming the gamut of challenges that aspiring gardeners face, such as inhospitable soil, lack of time, and accidentally planting their car keys. Knowledgeable about diverse garden types—including rooftop, field, and aquaponic—the instructors impart their wisdom on the best kind of garden for each grower’s individual needs, as well as which vegetable varieties grow most readily in North Texas and how to plant them. When not brewing compost tea or working beneath trellises tangled in emerald wisps, the crew does a radio show which talks about how to obtain baskets of naturally grown peaches, cucumbers, and squash.