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Poof: The Pandemic Made Me a Chef

Poof: The Pandemic Made Me a Chef

Two years ago, I wrote in the May 2018 issue of this magazine about how I purchased almost all my meals from a local professional meal service. “I had programmed cooking out of my life,” I declared.

I’d occasionally pull one of a handful of recipes penned in my mother’s or grandmother’s handwriting off the fridge. Mama Ann’s kugel was always a hit at office holiday potlucks.

My two aunts gifted me a KitchenAid stand mixer for my first wedding in 2004. It was used once, by one of those aunts, emerging from the box 13 years later when she visited for my daughter’s second birthday. And it remained in the cabinet for the next five years until I underwent a fairy godmother transformation into a chef and baker during the pandemic of 2020.

It was the perfect recipe of ingredients that flipped my kitchen switch on:

  1. With COVID preventing me from going to my gym, and despite frequent family bike rides, I found myself not feeling content with my former competitive athlete self. Food was a chore to prepare, thus meals were repetitive and mundane. 
  2. That dang spying cellphone targeted me with ads for keto cooking, and I bit. After transitioning over the years from having eaten athlete style (anything you want because you burn it all) to Whole 30, paleo and just general “healthy,” I was intrigued.
  3. The company that baited me offered a meal plan with the most delicious food I had ever seen, shared in simple instructions and a weekly shopping list.
  4. For COVID safety, we started using a grocery shopping service in March. So having my groceries show up at my house every Monday morning allowed me more time to prep and cook. 

Once I had made multiple cheesecakes, keto breads, pesto and alfredo sauces, I had an epiphany. I no longer had kitchen envy. I started snapping photos of all the meals I prepared (three or four a day with snacks and desserts!) and felt like I could mimic the food inspirational Instagram feed of my professional chef friend Molly Winsten (@onmollysplate).

I could read my family’s thoughts a few weeks into this consistent stream of delicious and adventurous food coming from our kitchen: Who are you and what have you done with Lee!?

This isn’t about keto, it’s about cooking. But I’m happy to report that through a trip to Los Angeles, Thanksgiving and the December holidays, I never once wavered in my dedication to making sugar- and gluten-free meals.

My holiday gift to self was my first food processor. I’ve found my “forever pans” that I use daily. I wear my mom’s apron and am proud to debut my first food porn photos here for your tasteful pleasure.

Instagram: @lee_nessel 

Twitter: @leenessel 


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