“You don’t teach a 2-year-old to cook. You just make and show them things that they poke.” — Chef Molly Beverly’s response to teaching a cooking class to toddlers.
Since 1974, Molly has been a fixture on the Prescott food scene. “Gary and I moved to Chino when he took a teaching position at Yavapai College,” Molly said.
“We had never been here, but the lure of a large parcel of land in Chino where we could have a BIG garden, was a major plus,” she adds. “Chino was a true agricultural community at the time. You could get fresh milk, eggs, and produce as well as off-season fruits and vegetables from Utah and other areas.”
Prior to Chino Valley, Molly and Gary were living in Santa Barbara, California. “We lived in a climate where we never got frost, but we dealt with bugs, lots of bugs. We also had the luxury of living in an area that was on the emerging edge of a new culinary revolution with an abundance that was locally sourced with a leaning towards regional and ethnic palettes, preparations and heritages.”
Prescott was a very different place in 1974. Suffice it say that Molly quickly acclimated to her new surroundings. “Gary and I were potters, and became actively involved in the local arts community, eventually opening a co-op, under St. Michael’s, where Grama’s Bakery is now located.”
As time went by, Molly became involved in the local food scene and with an “Ahh Ha” moment, she and a friend created the first cooking class at Yavapai College, based on the book “Diet for a Small Planet” by Frances Moore Lappe, putting her education degree to good use.
Molly would go on to instruct at the college for the next 34 years covering a variety of food styles, cuisines and techniques.
“I made a lot of life-long relationships through those cooking classes.” she said. “Here I was, teaching culinary classes to local chefs and restaurateurs. … It really was a great time.”
Molly’s contribution to Prescott’s food scene goes well beyond her years of instruction at Yavapai.
Along with friend, Pam O’Donald, Molly was instrumental in the development of the Prescott Branch of the American Culinary Federation in the early 2000s. The gathering of local hospitality professionals met to network, participate in educational seminars, hold cooking demos and, of course, eat.
Prescott College has also been a benefactor of Molly’s self-taught knowledge and desire to educate and enlighten others. With an ever-growing awareness as to the importance of locally sourced produce and agriculture, Molly moved from College Caterer, to running and overseeing the operations of the Crossroads Cafe — a unique facility that offers students and locals alike the opportunity to experience a different focus toward food, how we eat, and food sources through dining and programs.
A long-time member of the “Slow Foods” movement, Molly and students at Prescott College, formed a local chapter, with a focus on the development and support of School Gardens.
The mission of Slow Foods International, formed in 1989, is to “Prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat.”
Molly lives the mission of Slow Foods, and with seemingly endless energy, has taken up the mantel so to speak when it comes to spreading the message of the importance of food sourcing, cultural and ethnic culinary traditions as well as education through mentoring and partnerships.
There are not many in the culinary and local agricultural community who have not crossed paths with Molly or have unknowingly benefited from the various programs she supports.
During 2020, Slow Foods paired novice backyard gardeners with seasoned and some master gardeners to learn how to grow food in their backyards through their program, “Grow Food in Your Backyard.”
While some faced the frustration of beginning their own garden, all have said they will participate again, putting the number of pairings close to 60 and the program is entering its third year.
In the coming months, Molly and Prescott Slow Foods will be involved in a variety of programs including:
“Growing Winter Greens Indoors,” which offers instruction on the benefits and how to grow micro greens in your home for your own consumption and health. Saturday, Jan. 21 at Yavapai College.
And “Seed Mania,” March 5 from 1 to 6 p.m. at the Prescott College Crossroads Center featuring seed sales and exchanges, as well as workshops, and kids activities, and an evening community meal. The event is co-sponsored by the Prescott Farmers Market and the Museum of Indigenous People.
For more on the local Slow Foods movement, visit Slow Foods Prescott on Facebook.
Barry Barbe owns the El Gato Azul and Torme restaurants in Prescott, and is the energy and insight behind the Prescott Palette. Email: Prespalette@gmail.com.