Chef Debby DeGraaff stands behind a stainless steel counter in a modern kitchen/classroom just off the produce section of Nature's Harvest Market. It's 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 24, and 25 of the room's 31 straight-back chairs are occupied. The topic of DeGraaff's vegetarian cooking class this evening is Amazing Avocados.
Spotting a few new faces, DeGraaff asks to what the good turnout is due.
A girl up front and her friends saw something about the class on the Internet. One woman saw the event listed in the St. Petersburg Times. Another woman simply wandered in.
The core of the class is made up of DeGraaff regulars, ranging in age, mostly, from 30 to 40-something. They're drawn back to the weekly classes by her organization, the bounty of information she offers and the dang tasty recipes she concocts.
In a nearly breathless staccato speech, DeGraaff gives a brief history of the avocado, discusses the health benefits of its good fats and runs down the ingredients of her recipe for Green Velvet Bisque.
Twenty-five minutes into it, DeGraaff produces a preprepared pitch of the mousse from the kitchen's double-door fridge and the class samples the chilled, garlicky brew. Twenty-three minutes later, its time to try her Avocado Mousse, a gelatinous variation on guacamole.
And like the pro that she is, at the class's conclusion, she plugs what she has planned for the upcoming week. Aug. 1: Light Lunches — Broccoli Bisque and Garden Tabouli. Aug. 7 and 8: Low Fat Desserts — Couscous Cake and Tangy Tofu Cheesecake. The classes are all at Nature's Havest Market, at 7 p.m. Wednesdays and 10 a.m. Thursdays.
Natures' Harvest Market is located at 1021 N. MacDill Ave., Tampa. 813-873-7428.