ELLSWORTH — Baking is in her blood.
The “her” is JoAnne Wood of Ellsworth, a California Culinary Academy graduate, who recently moved to the Downeast region from southern Maine.
Wood has begun teaching culinary classes for the Ellsworth Adult Education program this fall. Previously, she spent over 10 years teaching culinary skills to southern Mainers through the Gorham Adult Education program.
“I always loved baking and cooking,” said Wood, who was born in England and grew up in California.
Wood said her grandmother, Eva Wendholt, was a baker and cook most of her working life in England from the 1930s until she retired.
“There were also a couple of aunts who owned a bakery called Wendy’s Treats (short for Wendholt) for many years,” Wood said. “My Aunty Margaret makes the highest, most delectable Yorkshire puddings I’ve ever had and when she would come visit us in California, she’d always make them for us.”
“These are all things I didn’t even really discover until well after my own discovery of my love for baking and cooking and entry into culinary school,” she continued.
“Every Christmas my nan would send us a big tin of her traditional shortbread,” said the pastry chef. “Fortunately, it’s one of those rare baked treats that actually gets better with a little bit of ‘aging.’ The butter gets a bit richer and silkier with a little time.
“I can still taste that shortbread in my mind to this day, and no matter how hard I try, I cannot make it taste exactly like hers,” Wood said. “I think because my family lived out in the country, and because European and American dairies have such different standards. In England, they don’t over-process and ultra-pasteurize everything.”
Wood and her husband moved to Hancock County for her day job as development assistant for Friends of Acadia in Bar Harbor.
When the couple moved to Maine from the West Coast in 2000, Wood began working as a pastry chef at the Portland Regency Hotel. She would have continued as a chef but she and her husband adopted a child.
Weekends, evenings and holidays are when chefs are needed most, which is not always ideal for raising a family. So, she went back to working in sales and marketing and started teaching adult ed culinary classes in the evenings.
“People love to learn how to cook,” Wood said. “I think it’s definitely empowering when people learn something new.”
Her classes draw students of all skill levels.
“I’ve had people who’d never sliced an onion before,” she said.
That said, Wood is not a cook who likes shortcuts.
“I want homemade food,” she said. “I love good food. It’s all in a little bit of planning.”
“All of my classes are about how to get really great food on the table for your family,” she said.
Her remaining fall classes include main course salads (Oct. 22), easy and creative appetizers (Nov. 5), Sunday brunch for a crowd (Nov. 15) and a sweet holiday baking workshop on Dec. 6.
Registration is required. To sign up, call 664-7110 or visit www.ellsworth.maineadulted.org.