As a child, Natalie Zivnuska savored frozen slushes made from ripe peaches and white grape juice. In summer, she ate tomatoes fresh from the garden; in winter, her family cooked with garden tomatoes they had canned or frozen.

“I’ve always cooked, she said. “When I was younger, I thought about becoming a chef.”

Zivnuska went on to earn a degree in occupational therapy, but her interest in preparing good foods persisted. That’s why she juggles three part-time jobs, one in occupational therapy, one as a cook and one as a confectioner.

As an occupational therapist, she teaches clients who return home after an illness or accident to safely prepare easy meals. “We make sure they can fry an egg or make a grilled cheese sandwich for themselves,” she said. “Even simple foods, done well, taste so good.”

Friends who enjoyed her cooking asked her to cater tea parties and small dinners. When a job working occasionally as a personal chef became available, a friend recommended Zivnuska. She took the job, opening a new chapter in her cooking life.

Another friend suggested she apply for a job at Kakao Chocolate. “Brian Pelletier, the owner at Kakao, encourages us to create new items,” she said. “I recently developed a rosemary-lavender caramel, experimenting at home first with fresh rosemary from the big bush in our garden.” Kakao will sell the caramel this fall.

To deepen her knowledge of food and cooking, Zivnuska created a blog, She chronicles her efforts as she researches and develops recipes, photographs the processes and delves into food history.

“Cooking is more than a hobby with me now. I’m not quite a basic cook, but I’m not quite a professional cook, either,” she said. “Culinary school might be a possibility for me in the future.”


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