For Nancy Chirdon Forster, cooking has always been a stress reliever, a means for drawing family and friends closer and an opportunity to reconnect with her Italian heritage.
Now the former Milford restaurant owner will be adding educational tool to that list.
Forster, who previously ran Nancy’s Riverfront Café on North Walnut Street, is planning to open Milford’s first cooking school this spring.
“A lot of people tell me they want to know the fundamentals, even things like which knife to use when, and the difference between, say, chopping and dicing,” she said. “I also want to teach people how to make pasta, sauces, stews, seafood, bread and other dishes using fresh, organic ingredients available right here in Delaware.”
Verde, which is Italian for green, is slated to begin offering classes at 10 Southwest Front St. in mid-April.
Forster said she and her husband, Michael, are currently in the process of preparing the school’s website, course listing and kitchen/classroom, which will be located in the first-floor office space that previously housed Psychotherapeutic Services, Inc.
“The location is perfect because it already has a commercial kitchen and it’s right in the heart of Milford,” she said. “That was very important to me because I feel like the foundation has been laid for great things to happen in Milford, especially here in the downtown area, and I really wanted to be a part of that.”
A self-described Air Force brat who first moved to the area in the 1970s following a stint as the personal assistant to First Lady Betty Ford, Forster also previously served as an administrative assistant to Gov. Pierre S. duPont, as a scheduling assistant to Gov. Mike Castle, managed the Riverfront Market in Wilmington, was a training manager for PricewaterhouseCoopers in New Jersey and currently serves on the Delaware Commission on Community & Volunteer Service.
But she became a familiar face in Milford as the owner of Nancy’s Riverfront Café from 2002 to 2011, which was located in the storefront where Good News Natural Foods is today. It was during that time she also served as vice president of Downtown Milford Inc.
“I eventually decided to give up the business because I thought I was ready to retire,” she said. “Then I started getting involved in famers markets, particularly in Lewes, where I really loved the customer contact, instructing people about food and supporting local farmers. After a while, I had the brilliant idea that I could continue to do that with my own cooking school.”
Forster, who previously taught cooking through Polytech High School’s adult education program, said she wants to provide that same experience in her adopted hometown.
Page 2 of 2 - “I want to start small at first with classes twice a day for two or three days a week,” she said. “Some classes might be one-time events, while others will run for up to six weeks, with one session during the day for retirees and another in the evening for people who work.”
Forster said she’s also hoping to partner with local growers who would be able to keep the school supplied with fresh, in-season produce that can be purchased by her students on site.
“I’m a big supporter of the Slow Food movement, which is all about supporting local farmers and taking your time to enjoy a meal and your company rather than rushing around and grabbing fast food,” she said. “Part of the reason I want to teach cooking is because I love bringing people together to enjoy good food with their friends and their family because it’s those times that are really important in life.”