Why is Central Market Cooking School director Cathy Cochran-Lewis leaving the school?


In its first couple of years, the Central Market Cooking School was a somewhat unfocused loss leader for the ground-breaking food market, with a series of directors that seemed to change with the seasons. In 1996, store creator John Campbell hired former journalist Cathy Cochran-Lewis to run the cooking school operation, and things began to change. Cochran-Lewis would develop just the right mix of national celebrity chefs and cookbook authors, store employees with marketable talents, and local chefs and cooking teachers to fill a schedule that would attract thousands of local foodies to the school. During her six-year tenure as director, she kept her finger on the pulse of national cookbook sales and attended culinary conferences and seminars, scouring the country for the best chefs to present at Central Market, all the while keeping an eye on the Austin market for trendsetters here. As a result of Cochran-Lewis' marketing skills and amazing network of contacts, the Central Market Cooking School developed a top-notch national profile, enhancing the store's reputation all over the country. In the past two years, Cochran-Lewis was promoted to coordinator of all Central Market Cooking schools, helping to develop a network of teaching outlets in each of the new stores HEB has opened in San Antonio, Houston, Ft. Worth, Plano, and Dallas.

With that task accomplished, she's decided it's time to move on. "I've loved working at Central Market, and the cooking school has been a great platform for me to build a career," she explained last week, "but I really feel that it's time for me to strike out on my own, go into business for myself. I'd also like to be more available to my teenage daughter during her high school years." After years of marketing the cooking school to chefs and publishers, as of May 15, Cochran-Lewis will put her marketing skills and enviable network of national contacts to work for chefs and cooking schools around the country. Her new venture, Chef Network (947-4524), will offer consulting and marketing services to chefs who want to develop a higher national profile in order to present themselves to the media, cookbook publishers, or cooking schools. Another facet of her business will be working with cooking schools around the country, helping them develop successful schedules. She'll also be available to Central Market as a consultant and hopes to be involved when the trendsetting food store begins a series of culinary tours in the fall. According to Central Market founder Campbell, "Cathy leaves behind a legacy of commitment to the customer and to culinary integrity that will continue to be a trademark of our cooking schools for years to come." We'll keep you posted on developments in Cathy's career as well as who Central Market hires to fill her position.

Spring Events

Local theatre diva Karen Kuykendall appears at Central Market Cooking School this Saturday, April 20, from 10am-12:30pm, with a deliciously entertaining presentation from the newly reissued Texas Cookbook, written by her mother, Mary Faulk Koock. Call 458-3068 for reservations... Get out into the Hill Country this weekend for the Wine & Wildflower Trail where each winery will have something special planned ( It's not too late to get tickets for the annual Garden Party benefiting the Umlauf Sculpture Garden (605 Robert E. Lee). The party is Thursday, April 25, from 6:30-9:30pm featuring fabulous food from Austin restaurants, wine tastings with selections by Twin Liquors, and a Celebrity Seeds Auction that showcases unique clay pots artistically decorated and filled by such local notables as Ian Moore, Kimmie Rhodes, Marcia Ball, and Joe Sears. For reservations, call 462-6050 or register online at

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Central Market Cooking School, John Campbell, Cathy Cochran-Lewis, Chef Network

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