Looking down at the array of culinary tools on the folding table, he picked up one and showed it to the class.
“Alright, I’ll just use the one bowl,” said Scott Ervin, who then demonstrated to about two dozen eager students how to bake the “empire apple pie” at the Steamwork Center’s space inside the otherwise quiet Valencia business park Sunday morning.
The choices — the baking tool and the venue — were deliberate all the way around. Ervin was teaching the class along with several friends who started the nonprofit FeedSCV, which has a mission, pies aside, to encourage healthy nutrition and culinary education.
“I’ve always enjoyed teaching,” Ervin said, after the afternoon pie class he also taught Sunday. While he’s an accountant by day, his weekend passion frequently brings him into this classroom setting. “I thought I’d end up teaching accounting classes someday, but once I started teaching bread, etc., I found it much more satisfying.”
The pie class is just one way they’ve come up with to help stimulate the conversation in favor of more DIY behavior in Santa Clarita Valley kitchens, as well as support where there’s need and hunger locally.
Sunday’s class was a fundraiser to help operations, but it was also an exercise in community building. The money assists in efforts the group undertakes like when it feeds residents whose homes were evacuated due to the Sand Fire in 2016.
Ervin and Todd Wilson run FeedSCV, which developed as a sort foodies mutual admiration society that sought to make positive change. Ervin was teaching bread classes through the Speakeasy Bakery, which supports a group of bread bakers that now counts more than 1,788 members. Wilson started Santa Clarita Foodies and EatSCV, which also celebrates local culinary work through restaurant reviews and other industry-related news.
And the two, along with their friends, have coalesced a network of foodies that reaches thousands who message each other constantly with tips, questions and finds.
In fact the group, through participation in local gatherings, nonprofit events like the upcoming Charity Chili Cookoff, and frequent engagement from other members, has steadily grown to more than 12,300 members for the Foodies Facebook page. (Side note: Last year, Ervin’s chili garnered first place from the judges in the chili cookoff, something he’ll readily admit whenever the event is mentioned.) And they’ve created a supportive atmosphere around the discussion — the Steamwork space being used for Sunday’s class was donated by Tania Mulry, who founded the workspace usually bustling with entrepreneurial activity during the week.
Gestures like Mulry’s and the community’s “pay it forward” approach are of what the group is all about, said Wilson, who was one of several of the Speakeasy Bakery team helping Ervin behind the scenes for Sunday’s classes.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have been shown how to cook by people who have given their own time,” Wilson said. “This is a way I can pay it forward, and help others who want to become better cooks, as well.”
And teach they did. There were at least four bowls in front of him at all times Sunday, but Ervin’s decision to choose just one to demonstrate pie preparation stems from a sentiment that’s at least unofficially part of the group’s mission statement: Anyone can do this.
Part of spreading their message of nutritional well being is not just to entice the conversation with delicious desserts, but also to bring things to the table, so to speak, easy enough for a single parent who’s busy and cooking on a budget — which is part of why Ervin loves teaching the classes. It also creates some pretty tasty results, he said.
The empire pie class was a prelude to what is perhaps the most decadent foodie fundraiser the group hosts all year, Pi Day, which fittingly takes place March 14, and centers around an daylong marathon online pie auction of donated baked goods.
Last year, the event raised more than $3,700 for FeedSCV — averaging about $90 per pie — through online bids offered over Facebook. (Click here for information on the auction.)