Almost Home chef nominated for Golden Whisk Award
This December when Thursa Evens turns 80 she plans to retire from Almost Home Tea Room as their pastry chef. When she goes she will leave a legacy of award-winning pastry behind.
Recently nominated for a Women Chef and Restaurateurs (WCR) Golden Whisk Award sponsored by The Institute of Culinary Education, she has been baking most of her life.
From the time she saw her mother's rows of hand-dipped chocolate centers lined up in a chilled room she was compelled to try her craft. After her children had grown, she began by using simple equipment and purchasing a marble top worktable. She was off on a culinary adventure that hasn't ended yet.
"From childhood, growing up in the Depression Era, I valued my small town mother's sense of seeking to put the best tasting food possible on the table each day," Evens recalls.
Majoring in home economics at Indiana University, she served as president of its honor sorority and was a summer intern in a Michigan resort kitchen. Later, she worked for 29 years in the business office at DePauw University, often taking cinnamon rolls, pies, and garden produce to co-workers.
"During those years I would bake cookies, rolls and bread, and make candy for the annual Holiday Boutique organized by two friends, the future owners of Almost Home," she claims.
Once she retired from DePauw she was asked to start a kitchen in the small craft shop that her two friends established. Homemade soups, a daily entrée, sandwiches, salads, and desserts were on the simple luncheon menu.
That venture evolved into dinners on weekends, then all-week meals, a banquet room, an expansion into another building, and catering.
Finally, because of the large volume Evens turned her attention to the pastry area.
When Almost Home reached its 10th Anniversary in 2000 Evens helped compile a cookbook full of recipes, many which were her own creations.
"I can remember, however, my first pie, a disaster of an apple pie made for my father. I cried over its 'crunchy crust' and vowed to never make another pie. Well, of course, I did for I had to figure out how to do it right," she recalls.
And she did figure it out. Almost Home's soups and desserts, prepared for the 'Taste of Indiana' event in Indianapolis, have repeatedly received top awards.
Almost Home owner Gail Smith knows that Evens anticipates a full retirement as pastry chef in December 2007 after more than 17 years with the ever-expanding eatery.
"There are absolutely no words that best describe Thursa and what she shares with everyone. She is humble, generous and always kind with her words. She is the closest thing to an angel on earth. Her talents are many, including the best cook I know. She has worked for me at the restaurant guiding me in the direction of success. Her specialty is pastry and she has made Almost Home 'award winning' with her creations," proudly reports Smith.
The volume of her baking may be reduced in the future, but she sais her desire to produce the finest quality products will never stop.
"They must look luscious and taste exceptionally good. From soups to bread making, to pies, to hand-dipped chocolates, caramels, and toffee, to luscious looking cakes and desserts has been my journey. Satisfying the taste buds and watching others learn have been my joy," remarks Evens.
She recognizes her blessings of three children and nine grandchildren, a husband now being cared for at the Indiana Veteran's Home, a host of friends, a love for gardening, and a 33-acre farm with four types of berries and nine fruit trees (one for each grandchild).
"It has been an amazing mystery for me to discover the remarkable results of an endless combination of ingredients and heat. Satisfying the taste buds and watching others learn have been my joy," she adds.
"It has given me a legacy to pass on to my grandchildren," she concludes.