Pan-Handler’s Kitchen: A Unique Place for Learning to Cook

When Audrey Robbins wanted to enroll her son in cooking classes, she had a hard time finding one in Tallahassee.

“We enjoyed watching the Food Network together and I started teaching him to cook. I couldn’t find any classes, so I started planning this business,” said Robbins.

In March 2009, Robbins revamped a pre-existing cooking supply store on East Tennessee Street and called it Pan-Handlers Kitchen. Robbins brought her friend Rob Barrett on board to serve as manager of the enterprise. As originally planned, Robbins added a kitchen area to conduct evening cooking classes. When the business got more exposure, Pan-Handlers outgrew its original home.

Two cottages became available at Lake Ella in 2010, and Robbins decided to move her culinary-based business. Lake Ella gave the enterprise exposure and much needed space. Pan-Handlers is located on the west end of Lake Ella. The cooking store occupies one cottage, and the other cottage houses the kitchen.

Although neither of them have a formal background in culinary arts, Barrett considers himself an “experienced home cook.”

“We both grew up in homes where you didn’t go out to eat. You made the food you wanted,” said Barrett. “So at an early age, we learned to cook for ourselves.”

The Pan-Handlers team hires culinary mavens and professional chefs from the Tallahassee area to teach a variety of classes. Students can learn how to prepare a certain dish or how to master a cooking skill. Classes hold eight students, which allows each participant to receive personalized attention.

A new chef to join the Pan-Handlers team is Bobbie Golden from Monticello, Fla. Golden and her husband own Golden Acre Ranch, and she has mastered the craft of cooking with fresh ingredients over her career. Like Robbins and Barrett, Golden considers herself a master of family cooking.

Golden, a mother of college graduates understands the push and pull students deal with. She served up a suggestion on how to avoid mundane fast food dinners.

“Grocery store aisles are full of meals. Even if you walk into the deli department you can find prepared meals that are easy to pick up.”

Together, Robbins and Barrett design cooking courses that appeal to a wide range of audiences. One class in particular is targeted toward college students. College Cooking 101 was designed by Barrett. Barrett, a 2000 graduate of Florida State University created the class with the student’s stomach and budget in mind.

Tips from Rob and Audrey about Cooking and Eating Right

1. Buy a mixture of foods: organic foods, locally grown produce and regular foods from the supermarket.

2. Eat anything you want, but do it in moderation. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to eat healthy all the time.

3. Allow room for mistakes. Rob had this word of advice for those who are trying to change their eating habits, “No one’s a perfect vegetarian or vegan. Even they may slip up and eat meat every once and a while.”