Three kitchens and a cook
Cyd Koehn doesn’t remember when she made her first cupcake, but she knows she was doing it at a very young age.
“I grew up in a huge family at a bed and breakfast,” she says. As the fifth of seven siblings, Koehn often found herself in the kitchen under the supervision of her aunt — who ran a catering business — peeling potatoes, cutting carrots and making potato salad.
“If you didn’t figure it out (how to cook), you were going to starve,” remembers Koehn. “I was making cupcakes, seriously, at 5 years old.”
Maybe that’s what spurred her lifelong love affair with kitchens. Koehn runs a catering business, and on any given afternoon her home is filled with the wafting aromas of chicken breasts cooling; sweet corn, carrots, potatoes and green beans cooking in the oven; espresso-mocha cupcakes waiting to be frosted with chocolate ganache; or a homemade apple-pear crisp consisting of Iowa-grown apples and pears taking shape.
Koehn knows how to put things together, and that isn’t limited to food.
“When we built the house,” she says. “I was the general contractor.”
As such, the home was constructed with two kitchens, and she has since added a third. Altogether the house contains four ovens, multiple refrigerators and an unending stockpile of equipment and supplies — all neatly organized and tucked into an assigned place.
Of the three kitchens, Koehn enjoys the commercial kitchen in the basement the most. She often prepares raw and vegan food, which isn’t heated more than 105 degrees. Standard ovens won’t cook at that temperature, but her basement kitchen has one that will.
Aside from being equipped with a giant vent hood, a commercial combi oven and an assortment of other stainless steel industrial grade equipment, what’s the best part of having a licensed kitchen?
“I can wake up at 2 in the morning and bake cupcakes,” she says.
When she is utilizing the kitchen at 2 a.m., she says it’s mostly breakfast that she is baking. By 5 a.m., she has moved on to preparing lunch. And she has baked more before 9 a.m. than most people do all week.
The basement also has a separate galley-style kitchen, a store room and a private dining room.
Koehn’s third kitchen is on the main floor, and it appears the most like a traditional household kitchen out of the three.
She also loves the non-kitchen portion of her home, which consists of four bedrooms, three-and-a-half baths, and a three-car garage.
Other than the kitchens, Koehn’s master bedroom is her favorite because of its size, closet space, superior natural lighting and the fact that it’s on the main level.
The home’s second floor consists of a sitting room neatly tucked in between two bedrooms. Inside the sitting room is a closet that has become a makeshift library full of cookbooks, books about cooking and books about gardening.
“And I can’t get rid of any of them,” she says. “Because I like them all.”
That’s no wonder, Koehn’s mother was a librarian and passed on her love of books to her daughter, but these books aren’t arranged according to the Dewey decimal system. Instead the library is ordered by author.
Order is important to Koehn. She says catering is a different skill than cooking in a restaurant, and she credits her ability to be organized as the reason for her success in the catering industry. She says the logistics and skill of figuring out how and when to move the prepared food to whichever venue she’s catering to is of critical importance.
Koehn may have three kitchens, and she may have grown up in a kitchen, but in case you are wondering if she has ever been hot enough that she had to get out of the kitchen…
“No,” she smiles. “I can stand the heat.” ♦
ADVICE FOR MOMS GOING INTO BUSINESS
“I was pregnant with my son, and I was so sad (thinking of being apart from him); I just wanted to be with him,” Cyd Koehn says. “If I went into catering, or if I was a personal chef, then I could take the baby with.”
That was 1994, and that’s how it started. She now has three kids, and her business helped her spend more time with them.
“I could still contribute financially and do what I love to do,” she says.
What’s her advice for mothers who want to start their own business?
“Follow your heart. I just knew I needed to be with my children when they were younger. I knew I needed to be near them. And financially you have to figure something out. And if you love what you do, it isn’t really work.”
And one more nugget of wisdom:
“There’s an order to life,” she says. “That’s all you need to know. Everything happens for a reason.”