After 20 years of holding cooking classes at The Timbers, the Jacaranda and now the Sanibel Community House, renowned chef Loretta Paganini has compiled some of her favorite recipes, chef tips and anecdotes in her third book, "My Sanibel Kitchen" which came out last month. The book can be purchased on Amazon for $24.99.
To celebrate the release, Paganini will have a book signing Thursday, April 20, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Sanibel Community House. The appetizers which will be abundant during the event, include mozzarella skewers, shrimp and crab cakes.
"No one will leave hungry," Paganini said.
Loretta Paganini teaches her students how to make their own mozzarella during her March 10 cooking class at the Sanibel Community House.
A portion of the proceeds from her signing will go towards the Sanibel Community Association.
Her latest book took her about a year to put together and highlights many of her favorite meals she's made in her cooking classes over the last two decades.
"There's a little bit of a story with each recipe. Each recipe has chef tips too. Being both a teacher and a chef, I always try to make it as easy as possible. Some recipes are very quick and easy and other recipes are a little more complex. It's really a blend," Paganini said.
In addition to some of her favorite meals, the book gives recipes for small plates and desserts as well.
The cook book, which she considers her most personal one to date, features a picture of the sunset from her kitchen window on West Gulf on the front cover. The design was done by her close friend Doris Turner.
Paganini said reminiscing was one of her favorite aspects while writing the book.
"There's a lot of stories, a lot of family time, a lot of friends time that I spend on the island and now, it's the next generation. My grandkids come to Sanibel and love spending time here. It's funny, when you go to a place, you never think of the long legacy you're leaving behind," Paganini said.
Paganini originally came to Sanibel in 1997 after her friend, Donna Miller, beckoned her to come visit. Hesitant at first, she quickly fell in love with the island. Shortly after, she began holding cooking classes at The Timbers.
"It took me a long time to find the right place, but when I walked through those doors I remember thinking 'That's my kitchen," Paganini said.
After The Timbers, she spent 10 years at the Jacaranda. Except for one year, where she held classes at II Cielo. Paganini established and opened the restaurant for John and Mary Jo Boler in 2011.
Paganini planned on retiring this year but the Community House gave her an offer she couldn't turn down. She jumped at the opportunity to teach hands-on cooking classes in their newly renovated kitchen.
"It's a dream come true. One of the things I always wanted to do but couldn't was hands-on classes. It gives people a totally different experience. When you work side by side with the chef, you're really learning. You are learning technique, I am teaching them knife skills, it's a lot of basic skills people need in order to have that confidence in the kitchen," Paganini said. "It's a very different atmosphere."
Since the opening of the Community House, she has taught three classes. Her last cooking class was held on April 18. In the fall, Paganini plans on doing a bourbon dinner class with her husband at the Sanibel Community House.
"I'll be in the kitchen doing the food and he's going to pair everything with all different kinds of bourbon," Paganini said.
For questions about the book signing, call the Sanibel Community House at (239) 472-2155.