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Inspired Cooking at the Farmers Market

Chef Sharon Ako at the Weiss Farmers MarketChef Sharon Ako arrived at the Uptown Farmers Market early Thursday morning ready to shop. She perused the fresh fruits and vegetables available—lots of leafy greens, radishes, cherries, blueberries and raspberries—and stopped to chat with the seller from Stamper’s Cheese, who had a variety of goat and aged cheddar cheeses. She also picked up a few free-range eggs from the meat seller at Fresh Food Stuffs.

But Ako was there to do more than shop. She was hosting a cooking demonstration, making breakfast from foods available at the market. She had decided to make crepes.

“Crepes are like thin pancakes,” she explained to the group of campers from the South-East Asia Center. “They’re thin because there is less egg in the batter. When you add things to the batter, it changes the consistency.”

Crepes at the Farmers MarketAko made a variety of crepes both sweet and savory. Filling spinach crepes with goat cheese and zucchini, she rolled the crepe like a sushi roll and then cut it into sample pieces. She also made chocolate crepes, cut into triangles and topped with whipped crème and fresh berries.

The 15 campers sat at the edges of their seats under the white tent, leaning in to get a better look at the batter Ako mixed in her bowl.

“Who likes spinach?” she asked the children.

“Me!” most of them hollered in unison, raising their hands.

Kids lining up for more at the Farmers MarketAko is accustomed to such enthusiasm. Head chef instructor at Inspiration Corporation, 4554 N. Broadway St., she teaches people in need how to cook, giving them a new chance at employment and life. She trained at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago and has been a chef for the past 11 years. Ako also holds a degree in psychology.

“So put those two together and you end up at Inspiration Corporation,” she says.

The campers traced Ako’s movements closely. They had come to the market to learn about healthy eating and purchase produce from the local farmers. Their eyes followed Ako as she poured the batter into the pans, slipped each crepe out and then distributed them for tasting.

The general consensus? Yum!

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