Menlo mom and daughter teach kids to cook — and make baking easier for the rest of us

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on December 20, 2011

Holly Newman and Michelle Dewolf of The Festive Table

You could say it began with a box of Twinkies. Michelle Dewolf was a volunteer at Oak Knoll, teaching second graders how to cook, which included making home-baked Twinkies using pound cake and non-additive “real” filling. The kids then did a taste test between their Twinkies and the store bought kind.

“No surprise, they liked the home-baked ones,”she recalls.

Those volunteer cooking classes expanded into after school and birthday party cooking classes with daughter Holly Newman, now a sixth grader at Hillview, as her sous chef.  They’ve recently expanded the business, which is named The Festive Table, to include dry-mix baking products, including Holly’s “famous” Snickerdoodle recipe, which they introduced at the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation holiday boutique and promptly sold out.

“Years ago, I had a lemonade stand with a friend and we also sold Snickerdoodles,” Holly says. “Months later people were still asking for them.”

Her other specialty is biscuits, which require patience as they take about two hours to prepare. “Holly most often makes them for a special person or occasion,” says Michelle. “She’s committed when she comes into the kitchen, whatever the project.”

For Michelle, The Festive Table , has had a two-fold benefit. “It allows me to stay at home and be with my kids and also feeds the business person inside me,” she says. “But if nothing more comes out of this, it will always have been a fun way for Holly and me to be together.”

If you see a culinary career in Holly’s future, it won’t be her first choice. She wants to be an author. “I’ve been working on a novel since I was in fourth grade,” she says. “It’s about three sisters whose parents are kidnapped and the kids find the parents’ diary, which is magical and leads them on a big quest.”

That pursuit will take a back seat this holiday season as it’s time for the annual “Christmas cookie grandmother extravaganza” that will keep both Michelle and Holly busy.

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