Hello! I am Virginia “Ginny” Louden, but you can call me Chef Ginny. I am a happily married mother of five beautiful children and currently live in Anoka, Minnesota. Our “let’s have one more baby” turned out to be surprise twins! So, I made my escape from the corporate world a few years ago, which gave me the blessed opportunity to focus my love and attention on two of my favorite things: being a Mom and cooking. Cooking for family and friends has been one of my favorite pastimes for over 25 years now. Coming from such a large and diverse family, there has always been plenty of cooking...and eating...to be done.
Lucky for me, I was raised around many great cooks who taught me well and shared family recipes and secrets along the way. I can prepare comfort foods as good as Grandma used to make. Real foods. Foods you can really sink your teeth into. Yup, I am that Mom. No one leaves my house hungry.
As a girl, I spent my summers in Louisiana visiting my mother and her family. We traveled back and forth across the Texas border often. I was born in the South and moved to Minnesota when I was young. I already had an instilled love of Southern food; but spending those afternoons next to my mother at her stove-- watching her hands, smelling the aromas, tasting the spoils of her labor-- that is when I really learned to appreciate food and cooking on a whole new level. I recognized my love of food and family and traditions then. I carry those memories of her with me now.
Back home in Minnesota I had a few more inspirational family members: My father was raised by my grandmother (and namesake) way down in Key West, Florida. She, in turn, had been raised deep in the heart of Texas. I remember loving my grandmother's cooking and I know that my father learned a lot from her. During those times when money was tight, she was still able to turn even the most inexpensive cuts of meat into something truly delicious. Later, with my father’s natural ability to cook, her recipes flourished in his hands. I watched. I learned. We ate.
I was also fortunate enough to travel with my father to Key West many times and adored each and every second. Honestly, if it didn’t cost a million dollars for a teeny tiny rambler, I would probably live there right now. The Sun. The sights. Duval Street. Live music at Sloppy Joe’s. And the food! Oh, the food! I learned to love Cuban food in Key West: yellow rice, black beans, plantains and lime. Heavenly. There is a little gem of a restaurant hidden back in the neighborhood, not too far off Duval Street. A family owned place where the Cuban food is just to die for. Whenever I bake a Key Lime Pie from scratch, I think of them and hope that they would be proud. The whole island experience made a distinct impression on me and my ever growing respect for authentic cooking.
Then there was my mom who raised me, and her own mother, who was Italian. Combine the influence of an Italian grandma with a life in the great Midwest and you’ve got yourself some good eats! Not to mention large family gatherings and potlucks galore. These two special women taught me everything I ever needed to know about hosting and cooking for a large extended family...and any friends they decided to invite to dinner: the love, the food, the fun! The door was always open and the food was plentiful. A tradition I will continue with my own family for many years to come. Casseroles and creativity. It’s the Minnesota way.
Which brings me to Mexican food. One of my all time favorites! I spent many years of my life working for a couple large restaurant chains here in Minnesota, one of which was a Mexican food place. During my time there I met an adorable woman from Mexico; I spent almost seven years watching, learning, cooking and eating some of the best foods that I have ever tasted. She was a true treasure in my culinary experiences. I am forever grateful.
I am also a competition chef and dabble in food sport whenever the right opportunities arise. In Summer 2016 I won the WFC Taste of America Challenge on Instagram for Minnesota. This win scored me a spot to compete in the sandwich category of the World Food Championships in Orange Beach, Alabama in November 2016. It was one of the most fun experiences of my life. I am currently trying to win my way back to the WFC 2017!
So, what are you in the mood for? My family roots run far and wide. Traditional Midwestern style casseroles, Italian pasta dishes, real down-home Cajun cooking, Cuban cuisine, or authentic Mexican food? Whatever your taste buds desire, my cooking is sure to please them.