EP’s Bradley has a huge following on the library circuit
When Evergreen Park’s Kate Bradley isn’t whipping up Boston crème pies, she’s out running, hoping to qualify for the next Boston Marathon.
After all, a girl has to keep moving to balance out all the sampling she does in the kitchen.
Bradley, who is known to many as Chef Kate, has been an avid runner since high school. She’ll be running the Illinois Marathon April 26. It will be her fifth marathon and if she runs it in 3 hours and 45 minutes or less, she can qualify for the Boston Marathon.
But she is known around the suburbs more for her cooking and she appears at many libraries and events teaching kids and adults about the fine art of her craft.
For nearly eight years, Bradley has been adding spice to the lives of library patrons with cooking demonstrations. This sought-after certified chef is a graduate from the esteemed Kendall College of Culinary Arts.
Like butter on a biscuit, Bradley is spread across Chicagoland, covering 52 libraries.
The going rate for a cooking class ranges from $40 to $90. But at most libraries, a Bradley demonstration can cost $3, which gets a patron a seat and a sample of food during Bradley’s 90-minute class.
During a pizza class with school-aged kids last Thursday at the Evergreen Park Library, there wasn’t a scrap of her delights to be found after her presentation.
The students gobbled up three types of pizza, including a dessert brownie pizza. The kids seemed to love her presentation, except when she announced that the next youth class would feature how to make salad. That drew a few groans and jeers.
She is lively, bouncy and funny when she gives her presentation.
“I never imagined I’d be doing this,” she said. “I used to be terrified of public speaking.”
Program Coordinator and Public Relations Representative of the Evergreen Park Library, Mary Deering looks forward to having Bradley appear for a demonstration.
“Kate and I have a history,” Deering said. “Our husbands went to Mt. Carmel High Cchool together. I’d run into her at the library all the time. She’s such a conversationalist. One day, she mentioned a cooking demo she was about to do for her daughter’s Brownie troop.
“That’s all it took. From there I asked if she’d present one for the library. I thought we’d offer it and see if anyone would show up.”
They showed up alright and Bradley has been hitting the library circuit with regularity for close to a decade.
“With so many libraries, my biggest fear is arriving to a library with the wrong food or, worse, being at the wrong library.” she said.
Bradley said each recipe selection is specific to the library she’s visiting. “I once prepared dog treats to collaborate with the PAWS reading program one branch was offering,” she said.
It’s typical for classes to reach capacity, warranting program coordinators to enforce mandatory preregistration and strict residency requirements. Bradley laughed, “I’ve have fans. They follow me from library to library.”
Her largest class size has reached 200.
She previously owned a bakery out of Evergreen Park called Bit of Bread.
“Running the bakery was wonderful. I knew my customer’s by what they ate. I’d say, ‘Here comes Mr. Blueberry muffin,’ ’’ she said. “But I had to let it go. I was working 16-hour days. I had two little girls.”
According to Bradley, the common desire of her students is to learn proper methods and get answers to questions on the spot.
Apparently, one of those students was very attentive. She used Bradley’s recipe in a contest and won a trip to Ireland.
Evergreen Park Library Director, Nicki Seidel expresses joy when she speaks of Bradley.
“Kate has an effervescent personality,” Seidel said. “We’re so pleased that other libraries are getting a chance to appreciate her.
“Kate is a Renaissance woman, she knows a little of everything. Now she’s growing mushrooms. She’ll be teaching a class about that next.”
Deering added, “Kate Bradley is magic. She uses this buzz word during her programs to convey her joy in cooking and teaching. Her enthusiasm and ideas bubble over into her students, cooking up a program that is both social and informative.”
Bradley uses the catch phrase “it’s magic” so often, it became the title to one of her two cookbooks. “It’s Magic” and “It’s Delicious” are compilations of recipes used during the library demonstrations.
All of the proceeds of “It’s Magic” go to the Evergreen Park Library foundation. Purchases can be made during class. Her monthly schedule is listed on her blog, cookingwithchefkate.wordpress.com
Bradley said, “I love being in the kitchen and I really love food.”
That is, when she’s not out running.