Living up to the Name

Candace Conley, owner of The Girl Can Cook!, lands on the Food Network because she really can.

chef candace conley offers recreational cooking classes with an emphasis on fun. Photo by Natalie Green.
Chef Candace Conley offers recreational cooking classes with an emphasis on fun. Photo by Natalie Green.

[dropcap]Chef[/dropcap] Candace Conley doesn’t just teach culinary skills in northeast Oklahoma’s only stand-alone cooking instruction studio.

She also understands the profound meanings of food in our lives – thanks to a doctorate in psychology – and how food unites people and pervades our memories and experiences. This expertise and insight have brought her to the national attention of the Food Network.

As owner of The Girl Can Cook!, Conley offers no-fuss, non-intimidating recreational cooking classes with an emphasis on fun at her newly renovated studio and catering kitchen in Broken Arrow. Classes are designed for all skill levels with offerings such as “Cooking Without a Parachute” and “Stupid, Easy and Delicious.” All are welcome to learn skills, from basic knife techniques to show-stopping meals.

“People just seem to respond to what we do; it’s that no one else does it like we do,” Conley says. “We’re the only stand-alone cooking studio where we concentrate on teaching people how to broaden their cooking repertoires. They learn to enjoy what they do in the kitchen, so they want to cook more at home. My mission is to get people cooking for themselves more, to actually enjoy cooking at home.”

A Tulsa native and Holland Hall alumna, Conley comes from a long line of talented home cooks and has developed a self-taught culinary style. She has mastered many techniques and cuisine genres but particularly enjoys Italian.

“I spent part of a summer in 2015 cooking in Italy in restaurants and vineyards,” she says. “I had studied a lot on my own, but that brings it together when you cook with the natives.”

The Food Network noticed Conley’s unique skills, and she participated in Cooks vs. Cons, a home cook versus professional chef show that originally aired in April and continues in re-runs. The 17-hour shoot showcased Conley’s prowess and she is negotiating to participate in other Food Network programming.

Food is universal and “brings people together,” Conley says. “What happens in our kitchens is people come to classes as strangers and leave as friends. It’s powerful on many levels to learn to cook together for two hours and then sit together at a communal table.

“It doesn’t matter how skilled you are when you come in. If you want lots of help, we’re there. If you want to do more of your own thing, that’s cool, too.”

Conley’s industry recognitions include People’s Choice awards and other accolades. She is a familiar figure on the philanthropic scene by providing demonstrations and luscious edible spreads at many nonprofit events.

Frico with Potatoes and Onion

Serves 6–8

  • 1 medium baking potato (approximately ½ lb)
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup green onions (about 4), thinly sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 8 oz Montasio cheese, shredded (fresh Asiago and/or Parmigiano Reggiano can be substituted)

Cook the potato in boiling water until it is easily pierced all the way through with a sharp knife. Drain and cool the potato, remove the skin and shred it.

Add olive oil to a medium, non-stick saute pan over medium heat.  Add onions. Cook until translucent and softened slightly, then add potato shreds. Combine well and season with the salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, tossing frequently, until lightly crisped and golden.

Pile the shredded cheese on top of the potato mixture. Flip with a spatula until the cheese shreds are combined and starting to melt. Smooth into a pancake-like disk, filling the pan bottom.

Lower the heat and let the frico cook undisturbed until the bottom is heavily brown and nicely crusted (about 5-10 minutes). Shake the pan to loosen the disk, put a large plate on top and invert, dropping the frico onto the plate, then slide it back in the pan, top side down. Cook until the second side is crisp and brown, about 5-10 minutes more.

Slide the frico onto a plate and blot up excess oil with a paper towel. Slice into wedges and serve immediately.