After Hours: Lisa Waas—Cooking up a creative outlet

For Lisa Waas, the property manager for Airport Industrial Park (, cooking and food has always been part of her life. “My Mom and Dad are great cooks, so I’ve been exposed to different foods and

cooking for years,” saysWaas, who attributes that to her being less shy about exploring new foods in the kitchen.

Waas, her husband, and two children have been cooking for quite a few years recreationally together, but their small kitchen in their Fernandina home would get in the way. “It used to drive us crazy when we would cook together because there would be at least one moment when you wanted to tell someone to move because they were in your way,” says Waas.

Old kitchen

New kitchen

That craziness lead to the remodeling of their kitchen. Two and a half years ago, they put in some sweat equity and did the renovations themselves, but it was worth it to more than double the size of the kitchen and put in a six-burner gas stove. “It was about six months after finishing it that I looked at my husband and said, ‘We’ve basically been cooking the same food we used to cook in this big beautiful kitchen and, even though it’s easier, I think it’s kind of silly,’” says Waas.

Waas’ habit of cutting recipes and ideas from magazines prompted them to do something different. Since most of the recipes are typically from the higher-end cooking magazines and are quite an effort to do, she set out to see how many new recipes they could cook in 2010.

The challenge

In November 2009, they began to tackle the challenge. “We would sit down and write out two weeks’ worth of recipes. We would go through the columns and articles and put together menus—writing down each recipe we did in a journal calendar. We kind of put ourselves into the position that we had to start cooking differently,” says Waas.

She says the more they got into it, they decided to put together a wish list of things they were going to learn to cook, such as homemade pasta, butter, ketchup, Asian dumplings, and short ribs.

“We never cooked with short ribs before and now we have three different types we can make. When we realized we weren’t cooking enough fish, we pulled fish recipes and put them on the menu, and by the end of the year we had logged 102 new recipes,” says Waas.

“Where 102 recipes over 365 days may not seem like a lot—with 200-plus days there that we didn’t make anything new—but it is a lot when you think they are brand-new, never-made-before recipes and we all have busy schedules.”

The column

One afternoon at a swim meet, Waas was complimenting her friend on her articles in the Nassau Sun newspaper, told her how much she liked them, and asked her how she started writing.

“While we were talking, I told her that I think I want to share what we were doing with somebody because we were learning so much and there were so many interesting recipes we were trying,” says Waas. “I know there are a lot of people out there that look at recipes and go, ‘Wow, that’s too hard,’ but if I can cook it, maybe somebody would be inspired to cook it as well.”

Waas’ friend introduced her to the editor of the Nassau Sun and he asked for a sample column. Waas explained how she would talk about what kinds of things they did wrong, what they learned, and how it brings her family together—and he loved it. Next thing she knew, she was in the next month’s newspaper and now has a column called The Inquisitive Cook that comes out the first week of every month.

“It’s a different creative energy that I don’t get at work or at home,” says Waas. “And having to sit down and process something that I think someone else would enjoy reading is exciting.” She also likes to add a little of that “uh-oh” factor, such as starting a recipe without reading it through completely and then realizing you don’t have all the ingredients.

“I mean, how many times have I done that? If someone sees that and says, ‘If she does that and gets through it and moves to another recipe, there’s no reason I can’t cook too.’ I really feel it’s important to push out of comfort zone in a lot of different things, and the kitchen for us is the place we do it,” says Waas.

She feels that writing about her foibles makes it more approachable to someone who might be a reluctant cook. “My desire is that people reading my article and the recipes I post will possibly try something new and maybe get other people in their lives, such as a spouse, children, friends, and family, involved in the cooking process.”

Lisa Waas is a resident of Fernandina Beach and has been a foodie and home cook for 34 years. She can be reached at

To read her latest column, visit

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