It’s not surprising that family and food are important to Satya “Hope” Ben. The mom of three boys and owner of Ben’s Family Cuisines in Front Royal served up tasty, authentic Asian dishes from her restaurant for eight years before closing it in December.
After years running the restaurant, Hope Ben felt a pull to spend more time with her family and has really enjoyed doing so these last few months.
“I’ve seen my life and my family life change 360 degrees. We’re financially in charge and having the best quality of life,” Hope Ben said.
Now she is creating a way to spend more time with her family while sharing her love of cooking.
This month, Hope Ben began offering cooking classes from her 11th Street location. “I had the idea for the classes before we closed,” she said, adding that prior to offering classes to the public, she wanted to develop her teaching skills and experience by working with young people in her family, particularly her youngest son, Evans, 19.
“When I started with Evans he didn’t like to cook at all. He just liked to eat. But when we started to do classes, he started to like it,” she said. Through cooking, Hope Ben said, Evans and other young people can better manage their money and control their financial futures. Additionally, she said, there are the added health benefits of preparing meals to your dietary needs and liking.
“This was something she wanted to instill in me — to teach me a new skill that’s a life skill, obviously,” Evans Ben said. “If she can replicate that in her classes to other students, they can learn a lot and save a lot of money and have fun cooking.”
With one weekend of classes under her belt, Hope Ben is thrilled with the response. She said that most of the students were former restaurant customers who loved her dishes and are excited to make them on their own.
“They had a blast. They made crab rangoon from scratch and got to meet each other. It’s a fun way to connect,” said Evans Ben.
The cooking classes began March 4 and will continue with three sessions a day on Saturdays and Sundays. Students must pre-register. Classes 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 Ben said.
This summer, she plans to offer cooking classes especially designed for recent high school graduates who are heading off to college.
“They don’t have to buy a whole bunch of pots and pans. They can save time and save money. I can teach them how to make a meal plan and encourage them to cook on their own,” she said. Hope Ben said for those sessions, she’ll start with basic kitchen lessons like how to clean up in the kitchen, how to shop and use in-season and on sale items, how to prep for cooking, and how to preserve meals for maximum flavor. She’ll be announcing details about the young adult cooking classes closer to their start in July.
It’s a project that’s near to her heart. Evans Ben will be attending Shenandoah University in the fall. The family is hopeful that both mother and son can be involved with the school’s cooking club. “I’m excited to be part of Evan’s school because I’ve missed a lot of it,” Hope Ben said, noting that she was busy running the restaurant on nights and weekends when her kids, Evans, Edwin, 23, and Bowen, 27, were younger.
“This is probably the most amount of time I’ve spent with my family,” Evans Ben said. “With the restaurant, I only saw her in the morning and in the evening. We didn’t really get to talk that much.”
When Ben opened the restaurant in 2014, she had hoped that one of her sons or another young family member would eventually be interested in taking over the business, but as they grew up it became clear that they didn’t like cooking. She’s pleased that, through her lessons, her family — and many of her former customers — are learning the art of cooking.
For more information, visit Ben’s Family Cuisines on Facebook or text 540-664-9317.
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