Not surprisingly, family and food are important to Satya “Hope” Ben. The mother of three boys and owner of Ben’s Family Cuisines in Front Royal served delicious, authentic Asian dishes from her restaurant for eight years before closing it in December.
After years of running the restaurant, Hope Benn felt the urge to spend more time with her family, and she’s really enjoyed doing so over the past few months.
“I have seen my life and my family change 360 degrees. We are financially responsible and have the best quality of life,” Hope Benn said.
Now she’s creating a way to spend more time with her family while sharing her love of cooking.
This month, Hope Benn began offering cooking classes from her 11th Street location. “I had the idea for the classes before we closed,” she said, adding that before offering classes to the public, she wanted to develop her teaching skills and experience working with young people in her family, especially her youngest son Evans, 19.
“When I started with Evans, he didn’t like to cook at all. He just loved to eat. But when we started taking lessons, he started to like it,” she said. Through cooking, Hope Benn said, Evans and other young people can better manage their money and control their financial futures. Plus, she said, there are additional health benefits to preparing meals according to your dietary needs and preferences.
“That was something she wanted to instill in me — to teach me a new skill, which is obviously a life skill,” Evans Benn said. “If she can replicate this in her classes to other students, they can learn a lot, save a lot of money and have fun cooking.”
With a weekend of courses under her belt, Hope Benn is thrilled with the response. She said most of the students are former customers of the restaurant who loved her dishes and were excited to make them themselves.
“They were having fun. They made crab rangoon from scratch and had to meet. It’s a fun way to connect,” Evans Benn said.
The cooking classes started on March 4 and will continue for three sessions a day on Saturdays and Sundays. Students must register in advance. Courses are $65 and include all food as well as tips on where and how students can shop for ingredients. Students can purchase a single class or a package of classes, Hope Benn said.
This summer, she plans to offer cooking classes specifically designed for recent high school graduates heading off to college.
“They don’t have to buy a whole bunch of pots and pans. They can save time and money. I can teach them how to make a meal plan and encourage them to cook for themselves,” she said. Hopefully, Ben said of these sessions, it will start with basic kitchen lessons, such as how to clean in the kitchen, how to shop and use seasonal and on-sale produce, how to prepare for cooking and how to preserve food for maximum taste. She will announce details of the cooking classes for young adults closer to their start in July.
It’s a project that’s close to her heart. Evans Benn will be attending Shenandoah University in the fall. The family hopes that both mother and son can participate in the school’s cooking club. “I’m excited to be a part of Evan’s school because I’ve missed a lot of it,” Hope Benn said, noting that she’s been busy running the restaurant on nights and weekends when her children, Evans, Edwin, 23, and Bowen, 27 , were younger.
“This is probably the most time I’ve ever spent with my family,” Evans Benn said. “With the restaurant, I only saw her in the morning and evening. We didn’t really get to talk that much.
When Ben opened the restaurant in 2014, she hoped one of her sons or another young family member would eventually be interested in taking over the business, but as they got older, it became clear they didn’t enjoy cooking. She is pleased that through her classes, her family — and many of her former clients — are learning the art of cooking.
For more information, visit Ben’s Family Cuisines on Facebook or text 540-664-9317.