Foodie Events / Restaurants

Houston Cooking Class Pioneer Gets the Ultimate Classroom Honor — The Legacy of Peg Lee

89-Year-Old Foodie Original to be Honored In a Harvest Walk at Hope Farms

BY // 09.26.22

If you’ve taken a cooking class in Houston in the last 40 years, you likely have Peg Lee to thank for making it happen. Whether you’ve sat captivated in a class by a local chef like Hugo Ortega, met a visiting author stopping in Houston with a cookbook to promote, or witnessed Peg herself on the other side of the kitchen island showing her eager students how to cook an omelet or whip a cheese souffle correctly, Peg Lee has championed home cooks and worked to further their culinary education in Houston for decades.

Self-taught, Lee grew up the daughter of a Scottish mum who couldn’t boil water. Nevertheless, she loved to dine out. Which led to a curiosity about exactly how that fancy restaurant food was made. Lee was drawn to the kitchen with well-worn copies of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by her side, not to mention a household of six and lots of neighbors and colleagues to entertain.

At the behest of friends who would come to admire her flair for great food, Lee began teaching culinary classes at Houston Community College in the 1970s, back when the fundamentals of French cuisine were heralded on television by the likes of Julia Child and Jacques Pepin. Several years later, Marshall Fields came calling and asked the sophisticated Mrs. Lee to curate its entire Houston food department and, later, the entire Southwest region.

Inspired by her success, the founders of Rice Epicurean Market wooed Peg Lee there, too, where she started its much-acclaimed cooking school with classes for adults and children, a place both chefs and visiting cookbook authors found a home and a friend in this Houston food force. After nine years with Rice Epicurean, Lee joined Central Market to inaugurate its cooking school as the grocer launched its Houston flagship store. Today at 89, Peg Lee still holds the role of Central Market’s goodwill ambassador in Houston.

To celebrate her legacy, Recipe for Success has built the Peg Lee Culinary Classroom at Hope Farms to support its Seed-To-Plate Nutrition Education program, where they’ll host classes, field trips and free cooking demonstrations for kids as well as adults. Here in this bucolic farm setting (truly poised just feet from the active urban farm), Recipe for Success will host regular hands-on classes taught by their team as well as celebrity chefs in the gleaming new farmhouse-style kitchen named after Lee, replete with custom cabinetry and state-of-the-art home appliances.

To inaugurate the kitchen, Recipe for Success founder Gracie Cavnar will be hosting a Harvest Farm Walk on Wednesday, October 12 from 6:30 pm. to 8:30 pm. Chefs Robert Del Grande and Greg Martin of Bistro Menil will join the ribbon-cutting festivities, sharing remembrances of cooking with Peg Lee as her sous chef during classes. While Martin will be the very first chef to cook in the new kitchen, presenting a series of short demonstrations of several of Lee’s favorite last-minute hors d’oeuvres whipped up with pantry staples and fresh produce.

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“Meals don’t have to be complicated, but they need to be delicious handmade with the freshest ingredients,” is how Peg Lee puts it.

To learn more about the Hope Farm’s Harvest Farm Walk, to be held at 10401 Scott Street, contact [email protected] to rsvp. For more details on upcoming classes, click here.

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