Tonia Carsten - Owner
I guess I’ve always been a “foodie” and I blame my Mom and Grandma, because they were such great cooks! When my mom decided to quit work to be a stay-at-home mom to us girls, she cooked home-made meals every day. I grew up eating crispy fried chicken and potato salad, roast beef and mashed potatoes with gravy, pork chops with macaroni salad, goulash, chili, soups and stews, and many more. Grandma was also an awesome cook and baker, and we had many home baked pies, including cherry, apple, pumpkin, coconut cream, chocolate mousse, and my favorite, banana cream.
It was only after I moved away from home and went to University, that I tried Asian and Mediterranean foods, and boy did I fall in love. After I had been working as an IT Recruiter, I was introduced to both my husband and Indian food. Before we had kids, we ate out often. After marriage, my mother-in-law taught me my husband’s favorites, and now after having the twins, I cook often and we eat many types of foods, including Indian food a few times a week.
I’ve always liked to cook – it brings back memories of loved ones. Only after the twins were born did I really take an active interest in learning how to make healthier foods. So much information is out there that can be confusing, and it’s been a passion of mine to research GMO versus non-GMO foods. I truly believe food is our medicine, and know deep in my heart the reason my grandparents had such long and healthy lives was due to them eating straight from their gardens, and remaining active for as long as possible.
So when I came to a time in my career when sitting at a desk for 12 hours a day wasn’t healthy for me, I quit my job and immediately started working on opening Rata2ee! And boy do we have a lot to offer in terms of knowledge sharing, technique training, and overall growth for both children and adults! So let’s get cooking…
Ruby Augustine - Head Operations Support
When I was a little girl and I was asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My response was always the same: “A mommy!” Children are my life! I have a unique ability to connect with people of all ages through fun and play. I have two beautiful daughters. My world opened up when my oldest daughter took two advanced courses at Michigan State University in nutrition. I am truly thankful for all of the lectures I received when she would come home. That was just the beginning. I received my certification through the State of Michigan as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) in 2011. Although I did not utilize my license, the education has been priceless. I continued my college education, specializing in Early Childhood Education, Anatomy and Physiology, Psychology, Sociology, Social Dance and Advanced Nutrition. I feel honored to be able to share my education and change people’s lives as it has changed mine. Food is the body's best medicine! We will be learning about "super foods,” and how they affect the body at a cellular level. Making good choices and staying active is the main focus. The typical American does not breathe correctly. These classes are an opportunity to teach children (and adults) the significance of proper oxygen exchange through play. I'm so excited to be a part of something extremely significant, a gift that will change your life forever! I am looking forward to working with Rata2ee!
Kim Luksch - Head Chef Instructor
I began my love for food when I was young. My parents would have parties with various types of food, and I would help them prepare for these events. I enjoyed making people happy with food. My parents took us to lots of restaurants growing up and were always critics, and I learned a lot from their comments. My father always knew the good restaurants and made sure we frequented them. I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture and worked as an Architect for 18 years, bringing food to work and putting out a spread with little descriptive signs and lots of variety. Many people said I was in the wrong profession. :-) In 2009 the economy was bad, and I was laid off because of lack of work. I took advantage of this and went back to school; however, this time went to culinary school. Just after I began classes, I got an opportunity to start working at Royal Park Hotel as a Pastry Chef. I got a great deal of experience making scones, pastry cream, fresh desserts, beautiful displays for Sunday brunch, and every 6 months we had to come up with new dessert designs for the restaurant menu. Since then, I've worked for various local catering companies. In 2012 I started working for Rochester Community Schools. I enjoy feeding the kids every day, and making sure we make delicious healthy meals. I am married to my wonderful and supportive husband, and I have 2 fabulous sons. I like that we help children as well as adults learn about cooking healthy meals for their families, and bringing families together around the table. I am looking forward to helping make Rata2ee become very successful!
Denise Doane - Chef Instructor
My journey in working in the food industry began simply from just loving to eat. One of my favorite memories of food involved going on a canoe trip as a teenager with my church youth group. After canoeing all day, I was so hungry, I ate four (4!) hot dogs at dinner by the campfire. Over the years, in the course of retelling this story, my friends get much pleasure out of embellishing the number quite a bit higher than the original 4 hot dogs. :-) Naturally, being a lover of food, I started my culinary journey, working a few years for a caterer. I also worked at Sweet Lorraine’s original deli restaurant. It opened my world to so many food and sandwich combinations, and to see Lorraine’s creativity with standard American dishes was inspiring. I am currently working in food service at an elementary school in Oakland County, and have been there for eighteen years. I truly enjoy what I do and to see children be enthusiastic about cooking for themselves and their families is priceless!
Derek Habel - Chef Instructor
One of my earliest memories of food and cooking go back to my childhood visits with my Grandma and Grandpa. Every Sunday after church, my family would pack up and head to their home for the afternoon. On one visit, my grandma asked me if I would like to help her with dinner. I had always been so curious to know what made things smell and taste so good. Finally, here was my chance to learn something about cooking and, oh man, was I excited from that day forward about being in the kitchen. She planted the seed for the passion of cooking. In 2009, I chose to go back to college and graduated in the culinary program. Food is now the center of my career and I have never been more satisfied. I am amazed at the new things I continue to learn day cooking. I feel so privileged to be able to share this experience with the students at Rata2ee and it continues to add to my excitement in the kitchen. Bon Appétit!
Lori Croad - Chef Instructor
Erin Fox - Registered Dietitian
Nutrition and fitness have been a huge part of my life ever since I was young. One of my earliest memories was helping my mom make sweet and sour meatballs, a favorite dish of mine. Every night there was a different homemade meal that my mom prepared that always included a protein, a carbohydrate, and a vegetable. I didn't know it at the time, but my mother was laying down a foundation for me that would be a passion of mine and eventually become a career. Another early memory of mine was doing aerobics in our basement to an old record player. Joanie Greggins was the name of the lady that blared through our speakers and had my mom and I sweating to the oldies, such as Footloose and Hear It For the Boys. It was then that my love for fitness was born. However, it wasn't until about 10 years later when I was in college that I decided to make nutrition and fitness a career path. Since then, I have been living out my passion of nutrition and fitness as a Registered Dietitian and a fitness instructor. I have specialized in nutrition requirements for Bariatric surgical patients since 2010, and hold an Adult Weight Management certification from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. I am currently working as a Registered Dietitian with Life Time Fitness, in addition to a private practice for Bariatric surgery. I also teach fitness classes that range from Aqua Zumba to indoor cycling. I want to use my experience, passion and knowledge in nutrition and fitness to impact people's lives positively everyday!