Being passionate has always been a leading trait of chef Allison Anastasio. She transitioned from being a first-grade teacher to becoming the founder and owner of Last Bite Chef, a local culinary company. Last Bite Chef offers family-based catering options and cooking classes, among other services. Anastasio’s passion for cooking and cuisine started off within her own household with the cooking she did for her children.
“Many years ago I stopped working for a little while when my kids were young,” Anastasio said. “I did a lot of cooking as a young mother. Not only homestyle cooking but also a deeper independent study on authentic techniques from different cuisines from around the globe.”
After going to culinary school, she realized that working in a restaurant and raising four children would not be feasible. As a result, Last Bite was born.
“[Being a] personal chef allows me a lot of things,” Anastasio said. “It allows me to do creative, really fantastic cooking during the day. It allows me creative control every week, as I make a new menu that is seasonally appropriate and respectfully looks at different corners of the globe.”
With a diverse menu, the chef cooks for three to six families per week. She relishes the feeling of leaving each family’s fridge full of vegetable-based cuisine that is ready to be cherished and shared.
“I leave feeling very satisfied, not only in the work I have done in creating delicious food but in the ability that I have given the families to just sit and enjoy each other’s company,” Anastasio said. “I have nourished them in both ways.”
Anastasio has previously taught cooking classes for private clients, in Pittsfield Township Rec and Ed, as well as at Washtenaw Community College. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic made it harder for her to reach her audience in person. Her “Bite Sized” cooking classes are different from typical cooking classes because she focuses on one dish or concept each session.
“I have found that this is exciting because at the end of our class, [the participants] have a warm dinner for their families and they have learned a new technique,” she said.
After a few months of classes held every Sunday evening, Anastasio has been able to build a regular community of learners while also always welcoming anyone who is interested.
“One of the ways I like to distinguish this class series from other online cooking classes is that I really try to pace myself,” Anastasio said. “I pace myself and my students through each step as if I’m standing next to them, mentoring them as they are doing it for the first time or even the sixth time.”
Anastasio has planned Bite Sized classes through the end of 2021 but hopes to eventually take it to an in-person format.
“I would welcome anyone who is vaguely interested to join,” she said. “It is really an excellent way to give yourself a way to focus on self-care because you learn a new skill and you feed yourself with homemade food and that is deeply nourishing, not only physically but emotionally.”
Through her time working almost exclusively from home, Anastasio has worked to nourish her own self alongside her students.
“I spent many years thinking of myself in an inferior way and that is very easy as a young woman, especially when you have certain preconceived notions of what young mothers should be doing,” Anastasio said. “In the last two or three years, and certainly more in the last year, I am more willing to make a phone call and ask a question. More willing to be rejected but just wanting to make as many culinary connections as possible.”
Her biggest goal is always to bring people together, especially during a time of COVID and reliance on the digital world.
“I love to cook great food but even more than that I love to nourish people, to teach people how to cook.” Anastasio continues, “I really want to facilitate people coming together over food. I think there is a lot of value in sharing food, really facilitating community and togetherness.”