After giving new life to one of the region's oldest dining establishments, the owners of Rogue River Lodge plan to welcome the new year with a series of cooking classes.

After giving new life to one of the region's oldest dining establishments, the owners of Rogue River Lodge plan to welcome the new year with a series of cooking classes.

Anne and Lee Kimball signed on Shady Cove resident Sue Cary to teach nine classes in 2011, starting in January with Southern specialties for Mardi Gras and concluding in December with holiday foods. Since reopening the circa-1937 lodge in August, the Kimballs adopted for its motto "where history never tasted so good."

While Cary's long culinary history fits right into the couple's vision, she also brings a "holistic" approach to cooking from scratch with whole foods, says Anne Kimball. The classes are intended to engage more customers in the lodge's off-season — an original component of the couple's long-range business plan, she adds. Cary just happened on the scene before they had a chance to solicit instructors.

"I innocently approached them, and we just all kind of jelled," says Cary.

The Kimballs had consulted Cary's partner, Mark Parker, about some custom woodwork for the lodge when Cary's kitchen experience came to light. She spent the 1970s conducting store demonstrations in 13 states for specialty cookware companies, first a manufacturer of traditional Chinese implements, followed by Cuisinart and Farberware. In an era when many home cooks relied on convenience foods, Cary was cooking "real" Chinese food from scratch using vegetables unfamiliar to many Americans.

"I took that as an opportunity to share truth with people," she says, explaining that her approach was always geared more toward demystifying food than peddling cookware.

"I love gadgets, but I had to put a lid on it," she says, adding that her trustiest kitchen tools are a wok and cleaver.

Cary, 63, curtailed her culinary roadshow in 1980 but went on to institute cooking classes at a half-dozen gourmet stores, give demonstrations for special events and on television stations, as well as hold private, in-home classes under the business name "Guess Who's Cooking?"

After living for years in Dallas and then Montana, Cary moved to Shady Cove about a year ago and opened Featherwood Gallery with Parker.

Just as art galleries are sparse on the valley's north end, so are cooking classes, says Kimball, expecting to appeal to an audience that otherwise wouldn't be exposed to many culinary events. Winemaker dinners, "brunch and bridge" sessions and a yoga retreat with "spa lunch" also are in the works at the Trail lodge that fronts the Rogue River.

The river will provide Cary's backdrop while she conducts Tuesday afternoon classes in the lodge's refurbished dining room. Participants won't consume an entire meal, but they can taste every dish prepared, imbibe in a cocktail based on the theme and leave with recipes, including ones that weren't demonstrated, say Cary and Kimball.

"I want to empower you in your kitchen," says Cary.

On the menu for the inaugural class Jan. 11 are: shrimp cocktail with remoulade, gumbo with rice, crab and spinach loaf with hollandaise sauce, stuffed eggplant, bread pudding with rum-custard sauce and pecan lace cookies. Cary says she also plans to discuss Louisiana's ubiquitous roux, "dirty rice" and Cajun and Creole seasonings.

Scheduled for the second Tuesday of the month, subsequent classes will focus on foods for Chinese New Year, appetizers, vegetarian dishes, picnics and barbecues, gluten-free and diabetic diets, Oktoberfest beer pairings and Thanksgiving alternatives. There are no classes planned between June and August, when the lodge is busiest.

For more information, see www.therogueriverlodge.com.

Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or e-mail slemon@mailtribune.com.