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A Feast of Friends

Everything from Denene Vincent’s garden can be used for cooking in one way or another, including the Gertrude Jekyll climbing rose.

LE Chat Gourmet serves up camaraderie along with culinary classes

Do what you love, and you’ll never work.

That phrase — or some rendition of it — has been attributed to everyone from Mark Twain to Confucius; however, it is fully embodied by Denene Vincent of Le Chat Gourmet Culinary Arts in Eaton Rapids.

A customized sign provides a welcome entrance at 11874 Bunker Highway in Eaton Rapids.

Vincent is an artist who has taken the ingredients of her childhood, work experiences and a “life stumble” or two and mixed them with the passion of making food accessible for the young and young at heart. She’s doing exactly what she was meant to do.

There was a time in art school when a teacher shared with Vincent that he thought she was a good artist, but her passion was probably elsewhere. When Vincent questioned that thought, the teacher explained that no matter the assignment, Vincent made the subject food related. Even during breaks, she was reading cookbooks. So, Vincent took that outside observation and began learning the art of baking, working from midnight to 8 a.m. to pay for school.

She has a vision of getting people excited about having a zest for living, an appetite for life and teaching people about the joys of cooking. Throughout her career, she often heard people express interest in learning a bit of what she knows without having to go to school and learn things on their own time. That became the foundation of what was to become Le Chat Gourmet Culinary Arts.

The kitchen is fully stocked with tools for culinary students.

Growing up, Vincent’s grandmothers, who each in their own way showed her details that wouldn’t necessarily be found in a recipe book, taught her to immerse herself in whatever dish or meal she was preparing.

That vision from a lifetime ago is fully realized by visitors arriving at Le Chat Gourmet, where a sense of how important nature is when it comes to immersing yourself in the culinary arts becomes immediately apparent. Vincent’s on-site gardens are a cornucopia of farm-to-table goodness where at least some element of every plant can be placed on a plate to be eaten.

Le Chat Gourmet has plenty of room for classes.

Taking classes at Le Chat Gourmet is meant to be accessible for anyone who has a knife, whisk, spoon and skillet. Students arriving for a cooking class get to meet chef Vincent. By the time they are departing they have experienced conversation, camaraderie, culinary arts and have made new friends. And each return visit feels like coming home.

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