Natalie Marble Chef & Owner
Natalie Marble left a career in international finance in 2001 to pursue her life-long culinary dreams. She graduated first in her class from L’Academie de Cuisine, the premier professional culinary school in the Mid-Atlantic region, where she built a solid foundation in classic French technique.
Building on her education, she worked under the tutelage of Ann Cashion, a winner and 4 time nominee of the James Beard Award for Best Chef — Mid-Atlantic. In 2003, Natalie left the restaurant world and launched her own catering business in the Washington D.C. area, Flavors by Natalie, where she catered events ranging from private dinner parties to political fundraisers.
In 2005, Natalie started a family, cut back on catering obligations, and discovered her passion for teaching while instructing a wide variety of cooking classes privately and at L’Academie de Cuisine’s recreational cooking school. Natalie and her family have relocated to Ann Arbor, Michigan and she is excited to share her passion and knowledge of food with the Ann Arbor and surrounding communities.
Photo by Rachael Waring
Allison Shelters – Instructor
Allison is a graduate of Oakland Community College and holds degrees in both Culinary and Pastry Arts. She was the Pastry Chef hired to open the Forest Grill in Birmingham (2012 James Beard Award Nominee), has been a chef at the Northville Farmer’s Market, has taught cooking and baking classes, as well as extensive catering and kitchen management experience at Edward’s Cafe.
Allison’s skills in baking, pastries, healthy cooking, and cake decorating, along with her catering background and passion for teaching, makes her a great addition to the Ann Arbor Cooks team.
Nancy Fraleigh- Instructor
Nancy Fraleigh, a food enthusiast since her early days in the kitchen, instructs kids & parent- child classes. She has been a part of the Ann Arbor Cooks! team for more than two years. Her focus is on introducing and encouraging kids and parents to try new foods while teaching them how to prepare it.
Growing up in a big family where meals were always made from scratch is the foundation for her passion of cooking. Her tasting panel consists of three teenagers and husband who know better than to ask “what is this?” until after the first bite!
Kevin Heslip – Instructor
Kevin grew up on a local “Gentleman’s Farm” cultivating produce and raising livestock but his culinary orientation moved from pasture to plate when he graduated from design school and found himself relocating to Milan Italy. There, exposed to Italy’s regional specialties while perusing the open-air markets fueled a curiosity that gave way to experimentation in the kitchen.
Under the guidance of several Certified Master Chefs, Kevin formalized his experience in the Culinary Arts program of Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Michigan earning an Associates of Science degree.
Professional experience developed concurrently in catering, followed by a chef position for the State of Michigan in the Residence of the Governor. It was there that Kevin had the privilege of sharing his passion for food and its preparation; be
it through events large and small held in Lansing or serving as personal chef to the Governor, her family, and guests that visited on Mackinac Island.
Love of food, its traditions, and secrets, he is more than happy to share with those who have a hunger to learn.
Sonia Urbaniak – Instructor
Growing up in Europe, Sonia always enjoyed food and cooking. She moved her family to follow her husband to the U.S. It was here that she gave up her profession as a coach and fitness instructor to follow her longtime love of cooking.
Sonia graduated first in her class from WCC’s Culinary program with an Associate’s degree and certifications in both cooking and baking. While in culinary school, she started working as an Assistant Pastry Chef at the Gandy Dancer in Ann Arbor. Soon after, she began working as a cook at Eve, under sous chef Max Sussman, who was one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Food and Wine stars, in addition to being a 2012 James Beard nominee for Rising Star Chef.
Sonia also worked as a Pastry Chef at the Raven’s Club, but she eventually decided she needed to spend more time with her children. Combining her dream of working in the culinary field with her love of sharing the knowledge for the preparation of great food, she worked for WCC and as a Cooking Instructor for the Ann Arbor Public Schools. She now hopes to have found her “forever home” sharing her culinary knowledge and passion at Ann Arbor Cooks.
Miyoko Honma – Instructor
Miyoko retired from her career at an automotive component supplier as Manager of Engineering Administration/Program Director of Intelligent Transportation Systems in 2006. Besides her day job, she was the piano player for Henry Ford Jazz Band and played at Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in 1997. She was also engaged in music performances for Ford Motor Company’s racers’ receptions, its charity events, and fund-raising events for te Detroit Symphony Orchestra, etc. She has three CDs released; one jazz CD as a leader and another one as the piano player for a funk band. Recently she played piano for Tom Teller’s CD entitled “Ann Arbor Suite”.
After her retirement from her automotive career, Miyoko initiated a new, culinary career by attending the French Culinary Institute in New York. During her studies, she also managed to squeeze in internships at two of the top New York French restaurants’ pastry and bread departments. She returned to Ann Arbor and opened Café Japon, where she attained an excellent reputation for baguettes, croissants and a full menu for food service. After six years of operation, Miyoko closed the restaurant in order to focus on baking. She continues to pursue her culinary career to refine her baking skills both scientifically and in depth. Her products are sold at Ann Arbor Farmers’ market, Morgan & York and soon to be sold in Food Hub.
Jorge Luis Lopez-Chavez – Instructor
My name is Jorge Luis Lopez-Chavez and I am currently the Wine Director and Beer Buyer at the Produce Station in Ann Arbor. We have been hosting wine tastings since I started working there over 2 years ago and they have been always well-attended, fun, and successful. I have been in the wine industry since 1996, and have been a judge at national and international wine competitions.
After graduating from the University of Michigan in 1996 I realized that my General Studies degree (even though it was a tremendously rewarding experience) was not extremely conducive to much in my future. At the time I happened to be working part time in the wine department at the iconic Village Corner and I realized how wine, in all of its manifestations and tangents, incorporated the gamut of my studies–history, literature, anthropology, and religion, even philosophy. However, the most rewarding of all my human experiences have always been related to savoring the fruits of this Earth and I thank my family for that (plus the great cuisine and bounty of my native Peru). Therefore I could not pass the opportunity to engage in what I classified as my “Grad School” and inculcate myself with the knowledge of wine and food. I realize now that it has become the brunt of my existence. I cannot spend a day without cavorting over the pleasures of the palate and all of the social variety thereunder. Briefly stated: I enjoy food and wine and its history and I have never been the same since I started this love affair. Let me share this passion with you.
Francesca Giarraffa – Instructor
Francesca was born and raised in Naples, Italy. As a young girl, she would help her grandmother and mother prepare the family meals. Francesca also learned Northern Italian cooking from her aunt who owned the La Cesta restaurant in Milano where Francesca would spend many of her summers. Francesca would also travel with her aunt to Sicily where she learned so much more of authentic Southern Italian cooking from her relatives that lived in Messina and Palermo.
Francesca moved to Ann Arbor thirty years ago and worked in many of the city’s finest restaurants. In 2003, Francesca, opened her own business, Casa de Cesca, to teach the art of family-style Italian cooking. Francesca has joined the Ann Arbor Cooks family to share her traditional Italian cooking.