Food & Drink » Three-Course Spiel

3 questions with Joanna Virkler, caterer

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From her gorgeous lake-front home kitchen on Lake Wylie, Joanna Virkler runs a small catering business aptly named Healthy Meals From Home. This mother of six has worked as a photographer, radio host, newspaper columnist and TV producer, and has contributed to non-profit organizations. Three years ago, Virkler, with encouragement from her family, devised a rich, healthy and fresh-ingredient diet she calls "enhanced homemade" food that she has incorporated into seasonal menus she offers to clients seeking convenient, healthy meals brought to their door.

Creative Loafing: Given your media background, do you find any similarities between your past experiences and what you're doing now?

Joanna Virkler: Writing is a creative thing, photography is creative, and cooking is creative. It's also about working with people. I have a lot of children so I have this huge need to nurture. Whether it's nurturing people for interviews, or nurturing a non-profit agency I want to promote. Cooking is all nurturing and about being creative.

Who do you work with to provide the ingredients for your menus?

I am partnering with Poplar Ridge Farm in Waxhaw and getting as many vegetables as I can from them. They're the only local USDA certified organic farm in our area. I'm working on partnering with Bosky Acres, a goat farm also in Waxhaw, which provides fresh goat cheese -- it's so good, it tastes like cream cheese but has half the fat.

Can you dispel the myth that healthy food tastes terrible? How do you improve flavors healthfully?

Absolutely, all my food dispels that myth. One thing I tell people, to move into a healthier way of eating, is do it one step at a time. You don't want to cut out all the salt and all the fat immediately. Take little steps. I use a lot of herbs and spices. Start going for whole foods; then it becomes very easy to get into better habits. My favorite cooking lessons came from Julia Child's original series. I realized that once you understand the basics of cooking, you can fly.

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