There are some couples who experience love at first sight. For Culinary Nutrition Expert Ivette Lakatos’ husband, it was ‘love at first soup’. The first time he called to ask her out, she was in the middle of cooking up a large batch of soup. With a one-pot meal already near complete, she invited him over to join her, and he says he fell in love with her because of it. Ivette’s cooking skills have grown considerably since then and now their three children are alongside to enjoy the deliciousness – as well, she’s thrown her energy into creating a business in Mexico City where families can develop an appreciation for cooking as an immersive experience.
A diverse culinary education
Growing up in Mexico, Ivette savored a broad culinary and cultural education. In addition to the foods she tasted in her hometown, her Austrian-born mother cooked many traditional dishes from scratch and she got to experience even more cuisine when they travelled to Austria to visit family. Fresh air, strong flavours and a lot of homemade desserts were the hallmarks of her childhood.
Ivette’s mother worked full-time and there was always a home-cooked dinner on the table nightly.
“One of the ways she expressed love was through food,” Ivette says.
Despite the abundance of fresh food she ate growing up, Ivette never learned to cook herself or received hands-on lessons. Her mother or grandmother were always in charge, and it wasn’t until adulthood that Ivette began to humbly explore cooking on her own.
“I never thought I would be doing something now as a living with food,” she muses.
Looking for something more
As an industrial designer, Ivette created furniture for a living and soon discovered an overlap between the creativity required for putting materials together in furnishings and the kitchen. With the goal of parenthood, Ivette started to explore nourishing cooking to support her health.
About six months after the birth of her first daughter, Ivette became quite ill, eventually landing in the hospital. After being diagnosed with two autoimmune diseases, medical professionals didn’t offer any dietary advice so she sought out her own. Ivette began researching nutrition and gut health, applying what she learned in her own kitchen.
By the time she gave birth to twins five years later, Ivette felt well-versed in cooking and even started a food business selling fresh, home-cooked baby food to working moms. The demand was fierce but unfortunately, Ivette burned out from the pace after a year. She craved a career in nutrition that would be more sustainable and help her achieve work-life balance, so she started her search for practical nutrition programs.
As soon as a friend recommended the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program, she knew the school’s hands-on approach and focus on cooking was exactly what she needed.
“I knew immediately it was something I wanted to do,” she says, “and it was a really great decision.”
Stepping into her talents as a community leader
Ivette joined the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program in 2016 and threw herself wholeheartedly into the experience. She thrived on discovering new ingredients and sharing them with her family, connecting with students from all over the world and learning how to create health-supportive recipes. At the end of the program’s 14 weeks, she knew she wanted to be of service but wasn’t entirely sure what form that service would take.
“I loved the assignments to see everything you can do with nutrition, it was nice to see what was possible,” she says. “I wanted to help other people, but I didn’t know how.”
Inspiration began to percolate after Ivette spearheaded a committee at her children’s school to advocate for nutrition education in the classroom and better options for school food. With support from other parents, she initiated workshops for kids that addressed nutrition and provided healthy lunches, and included instruction on yoga and meditation.
“I believe that food is the basis of every human who wants to be healthy and strong,” Ivette says. “Kids get math and writing in school, but they don’t learn how to take care of their health.”
The positive reception to these in-school classes prompted Ivette to begin a business that would deliver practical cooking skills to both parents and children.
In her community, Ivette says that many parents don’t cook because there is a negative perception that cooking is only for stay-at-home moms. During her classes for parents, Ivette teaches them how to cook nutritious food without stress, how to set a positive example for their kids and to view cooking as self-care, too.
“I’m trying to take cooking back and empowering people that cooking isn’t just for men or just for women, it’s for everyone,” she points out.
Her adult classes then evolved into a six-week program (now delivered online) that encompasses other holistic practices such as yoga and meditation.
“I believe that food is the basis of every human who wants to be healthy and strong. Kids get math and writing in school, but they don’t learn how to take care of their health.”
Teaching kids essential skills to support lifelong health
Ivette’s cooking classes for kids aim to teach them that cooking is an adventure, and a full sensory experience that involves smell, touch, sight, taste and texture. Most of the child-focused classes in her city focus on baking (or decorating pre-made baked goods). Instead, in her programs, Ivette shows children everything from age-appropriate knife skills to how to cook a chicken.
“I want kids to see cooking as a normal part of life,” she says. “And learning to cook when you’re young leads to a healthier life later.”
During her own childhood, Ivette wasn’t allowed to participate in the cooking process and so she deliberately set out to create a different experience for her three children – and the children in her classes. Ivette’s firstborn and her twins are eager to join her in the kitchen, cooking dishes from start to finish. Ivette’s oldest daughter, 11 years old, also helps out as an assistant during Ivette’s live classes.
“It’s nice that as a parent I can give that to my kids,” she says.
As a small business owner, Ivette appreciates the flexibility she has to spend time with her family while developing her offerings at her own pace. She hopes to implement her children’s cooking classes in more schools, while continuing to offer programs to parents online. She is also working on an outline for a cookbook targeted at teenagers and young adults.
With her stress-free, exploratory approach to helping others discover a love for cooking, we’re sure that Ivette will inspire a generation of passionate eaters and chefs!
Registration is open for the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program. Learn more about how you can join us, explore new career opportunities and support your personal health – just like Ivette has.