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Meet Monika Reti of Hipcooks in Downtown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Monika Reti.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Monika. So, let’s start at the beginning, and we can move on from there.
Hipcooks began as a flash of inspiration during an impromptu dinner party in 2004. After cooking on the fly at a friend’s place, a guest turned to me and said “I’d love to cook the way you do! You never stressed in the kitchen, and you made food out of nothing. I wish you could teach me that!”

I was working as an economist at the time for the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica. But I’d always had “something simmering” in kitchens, so to speak — as a line cook during graduate school in London or catering for parties or dinners with friends. I’ve always cooked and always loved feeding others. It’s what I grew up with.

But a lot of people, I learned, aren’t so lucky to grow up as I did, with delicious foods from around the world prepared at home. Since I’ve always loved eating, learning to prepare those foods in the kitchen was a natural segue. The “lightbulb” moment for Hipcooks was the notion that I could help make people comfortable in the kitchen, and inspired to create and cook for others.

Hipcooks eschews measuring implements and the use of recipes in class, to get people inspired to create and have fun with the process. Every Hipcooks class ends as a dinner party, with new friends and delicious wine… because the joy of cooking lies within sharing with others. Hipcooks East LA took off like a bullet when it started, with demand exceeding supply.

Since I’m a mover and a shaker, I built Hipcooks West LA shortly thereafter. In 2009, we expanded further, and now we have locations in Woodland Hills, Santa Ana (Hipcooks Orange County), San Diego, Portland, and Seattle.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The process of duplication has been easy for me. I’m a first generation American and inherited my mother’s German organization. Hipcooks was designed to be duplicable, so from early on, I invested in a website application (front and back end) to automate tasks and keep our offices paper-free. I love these processes!

I’ve also inherited my Argentine father’s short temper and fire. While I am a great creative force for the company and have many great relationships with our customers, management is not my forte. Seven locations require great management, and while I have a fantastic team of all-women managers for each location, I’m not a great “manager of the managers.”

I hope to take Hipcooks to “next level growth,” perhaps expanding with franchised locations, and this area of business management and development is certainly an area where we have growing pains. Please spread the word, we’ve got a job vacancy: we’re looking for a dynamo COO!

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Hipcooks is known for its hands-on classes, whether it be fun with knife skills, pan flipping, or folding empanadas. What you won’t find at Hipcooks: Teachers in white jackets called “Chef” that dictate her way or the highway.

At Hipcooks, we demystify cooking to make it approachable for everyone, which is why it is fun to teach without measuring or recipes. Our main focus is to instill confidence – with a dash of playfulness. We say Mission Accomplished! When a student leaves Hipcooks planning his next dinner party.

An important part of the Hipcooks experience is the communal meal at a large dining table that accommodates everyone. Building community, breaking bread (and sipping wine) together is why we cook, and we celebrate that!

We’re most proud of our community: our all-women team of managers (at each location), who love their jobs, our dynamic and vibrant community of teachers, our assistants (who all donate their time and energy in exchange for classes) and, of course, our engaged community of students, who keep coming back to classes, bringing their family, friends, and colleagues for team-building classes!

What were you like growing up?
I started cooking in the sandbox at age five. I’d do impressions of Julia Child, with her unforgettable lilting voice, while stirring muddy “pots” of goulash.

I remember making dolmades, finding big maple leaves and stuffing them with a delicious concoction, pine needles, and pebbles.

As a kid, I was shy and introverted (no Hipcook student would believe that today!), but I’ve always been a “do-er” — happiest when I am knee-deep in a project, manifesting.

Pricing:

  • The cost for a hands-on class, with a gorgeous meal and wine: $70 per person
  • Private classes (team builders, celebrations etc) are a flat-fee, $85 per person for a class tailored to your group
  • The Hipcooks Cookbook: around the world in 12 dinner parties: $19.95

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Lissa Hahn, Shelby Brakken

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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