It all started with an Easy Bake Oven at 5 years old for Chef Traci. Today, her Moroccan-based cooking class bring together students of different generations, youngest in their 20s to oldest in their 60s, to learn through shared interest and experience of cooking and food. Food is not just about filling stomachs, it embodies the culture of the people. As Chef Traci puts it, when we eat and cook unique cuisines together, it’s the adventure of travel without getting on a plane.

Let’s find out more about this Berkeley-based, Moroccan cuisine Chef, Natural Pastries Baker who continues to inspire people to explore cultures and healthy living through her cooking classes:

Hi Traci, can you introduce yourself and tell us about the classes/events/products that you offer through Verlocal?

I’m a cooking instructor and personal chef in Berkeley, California. My homemade spice blends are at the heart of what I do. I host cooking classes, personal chef services and pop-­‐up bakeries through Verlocal.     

My most popular cooking class is Moroccan Chicken Tagine. Students learn the techniques to cook with a terracotta tagine and make their own Ras El Hanout, a mixture of 14 spices used in this dish. We cook and eat together. It’s the adventure of travel without getting on a plane.

As a personal chef, I provide healthy and delicious home-­‐cooked dinners that are an affordable alternative to takeout or dining out. I offer a monthly seasonal menu, and clients get an entrée with grain and vegetable sides for as low as $15 per portion.    

I recently launched my Natural Sweets Bakery online.  All of my baked goods use natural sweeteners such as coconut sugar, honey, molasses or maple syrup — and are free of refined sugar. I also offer many gluten-­‐free and dairy-­‐free choices. For the holidays, I host pop-­‐up bakeries. My Thanksgiving pop-­‐up bakery features a choice of seven baked goods, including my signature Pecan Honey Tart.

When did you first become interested/passionate in culinary art?

I cannot remember a time when I have not cooked and baked. I kept asking my mom to use the oven when I was only five years old! Instead, she bought me an Easy Bake oven – which I loved, and that started it all! I loved making up my own cake recipes, even then.

Where does your inspiration come from? What made you want to pursue your passion and become a host?

I love to create my own spice blends as a way to experience other cultures through their cuisine. Food really can bring us closer together.  

While I have always cooked and baked, I turned my passion into a business three years ago. I’ve met the most wonderful students and clients through Verlocal, and have been able to build awareness and grow my food businesses.  

How would you describe the link between your classes and the community around you?

I want to empower others to cook and eat healthy, flavorful food. When students leave my classes, I want them to feel confident and inspired to create these dishes—and variations of them—on their own.

Tell us about the favorite moment/story you’ve had between you and your students when you were teaching your classes.

One of my most memorable moments is when one of my students was so inspired by my Moroccan class that two days later she cooked the meal for a special family event. She shared with me that the meal was a great success and everyone loved it—there is no greater satisfaction for me as a teacher!

How long have you been living in the Bay Area? What would you recommend to someone who just moved to the city?

I have been in the Bay Area and specifically Berkeley for 25 years. Our city has a wonderful and diverse ethnic cuisine. I would encourage newcomers to explore these restaurants as a way to get to know the city, its people and support local run businesses.

What is your favorite dish/cuisine? Any food spot will you recommend people to try at least once in their lifetime?

Moroccan food is my favorite type of cuisine. I love the combination of savory and sweet flavors and the communal type of eating. Many dishes are eaten with your hands using bread as a utensil.

What are your goals for the future?

I plan to expand the type of cooking classes that I offer. I am creating an ice cream class featuring seasonal flavors that use natural sweeteners and non-­‐dairy milk alternatives. I am also creating menus specifically designed for company team building events. Cooking connects us to each other!

Any recommendations to someone who might want to start their own business?

I think you need to be willing to experiment and refine your offering. Listen to your customers—some of my best new ideas have come from my own students!

What does Verlocal mean to you?

The chance to connect with others who love cooking as much as I do. Verlocal provides a unique opportunity to expand my business and my community.  In my most recent cooking class, my youngest student was in her 20’s and my oldest student was in his 60’s. My cooking class brought these generations together with a shared interest and experience.

Also behind the scenes, Verlocal is wonderful. You guys have been so responsive and personalized. I think it really comes through on the site!

Check out Chef Traci’s classes, social events, services, and handmade baked goods today!

All Photos by Traci Siegel.

It’s time for Ask Chef Anything! Here’s your chance to meet Chef Traci in person and learn to whip up Moroccan cuisine. Post a question from how she picked up cooking to secret cooking tips for Chef Traci in the comments below and the best question picked by her will get $50 worth of cash points.

Share your thoughts now.