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Garden to kitchen, Thielen shares expertise

Amy Thielen's classes begin with a harvest of herbs and veggies. Then she moves indoors to share her wizardry in the kitchen. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)1 / 2
Food held a strong presence in Amy Thielen's family while she was growing up. "If you cook well, you live well." (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)2 / 2

Amy Thielen views cooking as a triumphant expression, transforming garden bounty into "something beautiful."

"If you cook well, you live well," she said. "It's worth learning and doing - three times a day."

She shares her passion for culinary creation by offering Cooking at Hazelbrush classes, her kitchen and garden overlooking the banks of Indian Creek.

Inspired by author Laura Ingalls Wilder, Thielen adds "Little House" flavor to her instruction. Class members head out to the garden to harvest herbs and produce before gathering in the kitchen.

"I translate my passion for food into simple pixels of information and perfect little bites," she explains of her classes.

While her rudimentary kitchen may send class members back to days of yore, Thielen's experience has been gained in some of Manhattan's most sophisticated kitchens - Bouley, Danube, 66 and Cru among them."

Her tutelage has come from a sublime combination - New York's Institute of Culinary Education and Grandma, a blue ribbon winner at the county fair.

"Food was big in our family," Thielen said. "It held a strong presence growing up."

Heading to New York, sampling the fare, "I realized I'd grown up with good food," she said of her "taste memories.

"Great chefs are never done learning," she said. "It's an infinite subject"

The mother of 2-year-old Hank had seven years' experience working in the Big Apple. "Now I'm exploring food and cooking in greater detail."

Her Minnesota classes began in metro kitchens, as an instructor at Cooks of Crocus Hill in the Twin Cities.

The four-hour drive spurred an idea: Why not teach up north - with the garden a stone's throw away.

Upcoming classes, which are offered from 5 to 8 p.m. at Hazelbrush, include Primal Grill, which will ignite Friday, June 26. Hot, Hot, Hot, offering advice on cooking when the temperatures climb, will be offered Tuesday, July 14 (from 6 to 8 p.m.). Italian Summer Cooking will be simmering Saturday, July 18 and an authentic tapas and paella party is on tap Friday, July 31.

Private classes are available for groups of six or more. Topics include canning and preserving, the food of Austria, Bold Cantonese and cooking with Artisinal cheese.

"I arm people with good, strong recipes," Thielen said. "And they can e-mail me for more."

Hazelbrush is located about 20 miles northwest of Park Rapids. For more information, head to