When you pull into the parking lot for Cooking Uptown, you would never believe what's inside this small building. After spending 20 years in finance consulting with some of the biggest corporations in America, Karen Cooley has now turned this building, which only looks small, into a culinary warehouse, with over 5,000 cooking items for sale and an open, modern kitchen used for teaching hands-on classes.
Creative Loafing: What approach do you take to your cooking?
Karen Cooley: My husband would say that my specialty is my ability to take a bare kitchen with hardly anything in the freezer or the pantry and make a great meal. That stems from my grandparents more than anyone. They had to do with so little during the Depression and some of that rubbed off on me. It also has to do with my frugality. You will never see me throw anything away, and that all comes back to being able to make a lot with a little.
Has the economy affected your business at all?
Well, that's interesting because people are always going to eat. And when they aren't eating in restaurants they're cooking. That lends itself to wanting a new tool, or wanting to learn something new because they are tired of what they've been doing. Not that I am happy with a bad economy, my sales are seeing the effects of it, but overall I am happy where I am.
How do you feel about Charlotte's culinary scene?
Before the term Farm to Fork became popular, I had wanted to do that with my own restaurant 12 years ago. I wanted to have a garden right next to the restaurant and be serving things as fresh as possible. I decided against opening a restaurant, and now I have recently been seeing this movement grow in Charlotte. Chefs around Charlotte going 100 percent organic and using antibiotic, hormone-free beef is just great and I love it.