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Meet Laura Bonicelli

Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Bonicelli.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I am an “iron ranger” from Chisholm in northern Minnesota. My family was a part of an Italian American community where family, friends, and food were entwined. I learned to make homemade pasta and gnocchi from my Grandmother when I was in second grade, so I benefited from my family’s culinary heritage. While not exclusively Italian, Italian cooking is a significant influence on my recipes. I base my diet and what I recommend to others on Mediterranean principles, and I try to create a sense of community in the cooking club.

I started cooking professionally in 2008 with my meal delivery service. The concept for the business was a crazy idea that I tested for a year, delivering days of meals for friends and family (sometimes in the middle of the night when I finally got done cooking and packing). I have always been an avid home cook and recipe writer but never worked in a commercial kitchen or restaurant environment. Despite my lack of knowledge about making money in food, and perhaps because of it, I developed a solid group of clients. My business grew, and we added a catering element. Eventually, I opened a restaurant in Northeast Minneapolis.

Over the years, I’ve cooked for a countless number of people. I’ve also trained many employees, done hundreds of cooking videos (YouTube and Facebook), and done live cooking demos as the market chef for the Minneapolis Farmers Market. I love teaching people to cook! So, in 2018, I launched Bonicelli Cooking Club, an online cooking school and community for home cooks looking to up their cooking game. The cooking club allows me to share my love of cooking with so many people. It’s a gift!

In 2022, we’ll be adding a weight loss component to the cooking club. I am so excited to launch a program that will teach people a lifelong approach to healthful eating. It’s a perfect evolution for us, keeping all of the groundwork in place that we’ve already done to improve and support people’s relationship with food.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
There have certainly been struggles. In the beginning, with meal delivery, it was working through all of the licensing requirements for a food business. Then it was finding workable and affordable shared kitchen space. As we started to grow, it became capital to support the growth and find our own kitchen. We did a successful $60,000 Kickstarter campaign; in itself quite a hurdle. But, overall, the most significant challenge back then was finding employees with a background (or interest) in scratch cooking. It was a real problem. And because so many restaurants don’t have scratch kitchens, even employees with restaurant kitchen experience don’t necessarily have basic cooking skills. I believe the underlying reason for this, not the only reason – but significant, is we have several generations of people who don’t come from a family cooking environment. Having come from one, it made me very sad. That’s why I started the cooking club.

As far as current challenges, I’d say containing time I spend on the club is difficult. Working from home requires a different discipline that I continue to develop. Going to a kitchen with a set of tasks and deadlines is very contained. You make your plan, you cook, you clean up, you go home. Here at home, with something in front of me that I love, it’s hard to stop. But, I’m finding that routines I’m putting in place increase my productivity and the quality of my work; I’m learning my way through the challenge. It’s like applying “mise en place” outside of the kitchen.

Another challenge is conveying how much value, content, and community there is in the club. We are constantly trying to improve our messaging to reflect it, but we still get people joining and are astonished by the depth and sheer volume of lessons.

There are worse problems, but as we consistently grow the offering, we are always looking to engage people and make them aware.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am a chef and culinary teacher currently running an online cooking club and community that I developed in 2018. I’ve written over 1,000 recipes (and counting), with a cookbook set to publish in the Spring. I have published many of my recipes within my cooking club. The cooking club has over 300 video lessons with me teaching about all aspects of cooking and food. I am known for my love of well-sourced, organic, and locally grown foods and my healthy vegetable-driven menus and recipes. What sets my cooking club apart from the many other resources is my personal involvement and accessibility to club members.

Before we let you go, we’ve got to ask if you have any advice for those who are just starting out?
The best piece of advice I got when I started was “start before you’re ready.” I’m not saying you don’t have to do your homework or have the logistics in place, but don’t wait until things are perfect if you have a great idea. You risk missing your window of opportunity.

You’re going to get a lot of advice. It took me a while to figure out that everyone isn’t qualified to give it. Seek out the experts when you need them.

Pricing:

  • $19 per month
  • $190 per year

Contact Info:


Image Credits
Mark LaFavor

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