At Simple Gourmet, we believe in the power of hand-crafted food. We believe that teamwork is fueled by the knives and fire of the kitchen. We believe in surprising and delighting people with delicious, seasonal food that's comforting and a little unexpected. We believe that every child should learn to cook with and enjoy nutritious food. We believe that recipes, culinary tricks and stories are best shared in the kitchen. Join us in our kitchen or bring us to yours!
Melanie Barsuk, Founder/Chef
In 2003, Melanie left a successful career in corporate sales and marketing to devote her attention to her lifelong love of cooking and entertaining. With years of culinary classes and real-life experience under her belt, Melanie founded Simple Gourmet™ - a company that brings to life her straightforward culinary approach to cooking classes, team-building, culinary consulting, catering and culinary parties. Melanie's infectious enthusiasm and commitment to making simple and delicious food has made the company a success.
As a mother of two, Melanie is particularly fond of cooking with children - a love that prompted her to launch Simple Gourmet Kids. Her kids' classes help create a foundation of nutritional knowledge and an enthusiasm for eating fresh, seasonal food. Kids leave classes armed with basic cooking skills and a life-long culinary curiosity.
Melanie has had the opportunity to work with culinary celebrities such as Giada De Laurentiis, Rachel Ray, and Ina Garten. She has appeared as a culinary expert on the Fine Living Channel and DIY Network. She taught actor, Olivia Wilde, how to bake an easy tart on E! Entertainment's "Holiday with The Stars". She worked with E! Entertainment again for their "Modern Girls Guide", showing guest celebrity, Eva La Rue, must-have kitchen tools. She has also had the pleasure to cook on different occasions for Tom Hanks, Zac Efron, Duane Johnson and others in the entertainment industry.
Taji Marie, Executive Chef
In 2004, Taji brought her passion for international flavors to Simple Gourmet and began developing recipes for the company that celebrate seasonal, fresh ingredients. As a restaurant chef, caterer, consultant, food stylist, culinary instructor and food writer, Taji has spent the last 15 years bringing together flavors from around the globe.
In her culinary classes and team-buildings throughout Los Angeles and across the country, Taji strives to give real-life cooking solutions to everyday people. In her trainings for home cooks and corporate chefs alike, she brings to life her no-fuss approach to making fantastic food that incorporates traditional flavors from around the world.
Born with a love of food and cooking, Taji began working in restaurants at the age of 14. With her impeccable work ethic and culinary standards, she quickly worked her way up to executive chef and management positions. With a passion for travel, she took her skills on the road and spent time working as a chef in the Caribbean. She also has a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and her articles and recipes have appeared in Cooking Light and Wine Country Living magazines. For over 3 years, as the Culinary Manager for Sur La Table in the Los Angeles area, she worked with well-known chefs from around the world on cooking demonstrations and book signings, including Donna Hay, Joanne Weir, Anne Willan and Rachael Ray.As a culinary consultant, she has led workshops on Mediterranean and Latin American cooking in major universities across the country.
Melissa Clarkson, Director of Event & Office Operations
Melissa brought her passion for food and administrative skills to Simple Gourmet in 2009. She quickly proved herself invaluable, coordinating catering events, managing our busy office and communicating with clients.
Melissa didn't hesitate to take ownership of Simple Gourmet's busy daily operation and is now a vital part of the company.
With a long history in customer service and hospitality, Melissa most recently worked as an Event Schedule Coordinator for a large catering company. An avid cook and baker, she aspires to go to culinary school.
Jen Doucette, Kitchen Manager, Chef
Since Jen Doucette joined the Simple Gourmet team in 2009, her good culinary sense and friendly way around the kitchen has been a great addition. She quickly made herself an invaluable part of our catering events and culinary classes.
Jen left a career in computer engineering to follow her love of cooking. Before long, she was cultivating her natural culinary talent while working as a caterer throughout Los Angeles.
Ashley Salas-Nevarez, Lead Chef
Ashley has been working with Simple Gourmet since 2009 as a culinary assistant and in 2010 became one of our culinary instructors. Her attention to detail in the kitchen and her bright and welcoming personality has made her a constant fixture in the Simple Gourmet kitchen. Ashley has studied dance since she was a child and when she was contemplating a career change in 2008, she turned to her other love: food. She has always loved teaching and taking care of people and thinks cooking for others is a great way to show it. In 2008 she attended the California School of Culinary Arts in Hollywood. Afterwards, she worked in LA restaurants including The Little Next Door, BLT Steak, and Providence before pursuing teaching as a culinary assistant for cooking classes at Eatz and Sur La Table.
John Cole, Photographer
A longtime friend of Taji Marie’s, John Cole was thrilled to bring his photography talents to Simple Gourmet. His eye for simple beauty and amazing talent has helped capture what’s best about Simple Gourmet food. John also lent us his talent as a headshot photographer, capturing great photos of both Melanie and Taji for this website.
We are so thrilled that John has become the exclusive photographer for Simple Gourmet! Check out his other work and learn more about JBC Images at www.JBCImages.com.