Chef educates Rockford with culinary expertise

Chef Robin Toldo

Robin Toldo is a locally trained chef who has been teaching fun, informative and delicious classes in the Rockford area for the last four years, as well as adult enrichment cooking classes for Rockford Community Services.

“I have endeavored to work in every aspect of the culinary world, starting at the age of 14 at the infamous west side hangout, Sandy’s Donuts. What fun! I then moved on to a busy and rambunctious—and that is putting it lightly—downtown deli,” Toldo said.

Next was catering for the Marriott Corporation in Sault Ste. Marie, while attending Lake Superior State University for a major in psychology and a minor in child development. That didn’t turn out to be her life’s destiny, so back to Grand Rapids she went to attend Grand Rapids Community College’s culinary arts program. Along with the move came a position at the original Pietro’s Ristorante.

“Crazy, busy, delish. I waitressed at night and did food prep during the day,” Toldo said.

The next interesting job was one that would, unknowingly, prepare her for life as a busy mother of five. “I became an in-home personal chef for the Baar family. I created the work-week’s meals, did the grocery shopping, as well as the food preparation—AND the dishes, ugh!—for a family of four,” explained Toldo.

A tour through the prestigious Kent Country Club placed her in a “rounds chef” tutelage with Certified Executive Chef Brian Walsh. There, Toldo saw her destiny: fresh local cuisine, powerful in flavor, color and texture.

“I was in love with food. Someone once dubbed me ‘Ratatouille’ from the kid’s movie—perfect!” said Toldo. “There, I learned classical French cuisine in all of its glory, and worked with some amazing, well-trained people, including a guy named Derek, who now stars in an ice-carving show on television.”

The end of culinary school brought yet another urge to broaden her resume. Toldo sent out letters to places all over out west, including “The Ranch,” a fancy four-diamond restaurant in the resort town of Keystone, Colo., where she eventually worked as the head of the “Garde Manger,” a super fancy French way of saying “cold food.”

Having a busy family life here in Michigan, Toldo wanted to indulge her passion for all things food, yet stay at home with her five children. “I love talking with people almost as much as cooking. This brings me to, what seems to be eons later, my perfect job: teaching cooking classes to people who are ‘foodies,’ or just love to eat great food and socialize!” she exclaimed.

“The way I have incorporated myself back into the culinary world is to teach classes with Rockford Community Services. My demonstration classes are, as I have often said, like Food Network—live! You get to see how the food is made, but also taste and smell it—I’ve yet to find a TV with ‘smellavision’—and you can ask me a gamut of crazy food questions! You take home recipes and the know-how to prepare them, as well as going home with a full belly,” she mused.

Toldo’s hands-on cooking classes feature interesting, family-friendly recipes that you prepare yourself under her supervision and take home to enjoy with your own family. All of her classes are packed with helpful hints, great food and loads of fun. You can follow her blog, “Chef Robin’s Tastes to Date,” for some great recipes and a weekly “FamMenu” as well as a current class schedule.

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