WELCOME TO THE CULINARY ANNEX
We're passionate about building a space in Des Moines where culinary artists feel safe, valued and supported.
My name is Cassandra, but most people know me as Chef Cass. I own the Culinary Annex and currently offer culinary classes on foods from around the world (with a brick + mortar kitchen space opening soon!).
I grew up in Des Moines, the capital city of Iowa. My love of food was ingrained at a young age. As a baby, Mom had a hand-cranked food grinder to make mush of ANY food she was eating so I could have some, too. My grandma once said to my Mom, “She is the only baby I know with breath that smells of onions and mushrooms!”
Both my parents are quite the cooks. Dad is the adventurous risk-taker, throwing dishes together using no measuring spoons, timers, or thermometers. My mother is the recipe-finder and the best soup-maker ever! Dad always came home smelling of tomatoes and spices, being the owner and manufacturer of Chapala Salsa back in the 90s. They encouraged me to create and cook at a young age. I started to create my own recipes at the age of 6, some of the first being “Blue Soup” and “Chinese Egg Scramble”.
As I aged, I kept experimenting with flavors. My best buddy and I would experiment with the weirdest concoctions…one of our faves was olive and lime juice. This is where my taste range was expanded to the strange and unique.
I was originally a Studio Arts major when I first went to Morningside College but I figured out I was not as motivated with my art as I once thought, and moved to NYC. Living in one of the biggest cities in the world was quite a trip! Big buildings, loud sounds, so many people, so many smells, and some of the best parties I have ever been to. I was a nanny and a cook for families on the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, and Sunnyside Queens. It was quite the adventure.
Some of my favorite memories happened in Flushing Queens -- the real “China town” as far as I’m concerned! These experiences started me down my professional culinary path. The Golden Mall was one of the first stops in Flushing where the restaurant Xi'An Famous Foods made their award winning noodles . This is where my reigning love affair with Sichuan Cuisine began, as well as an obsession with trying to recreate their flavors.
My move back to Des Moines was prompted by a friend who told me “Cass! Why don’t you open a food truck?!?!!” I decided it was time to be back home, where I could afford culinary school and pay rent at the same time (almost impossible in NYC). I graduated from the Iowa Culinary Institute in 2015 and have since been on an adventure through the world of food.
MEET OUR CHEFS
Jules Henningsen is a classically trained Chef who dreams of sharing their love of vegan cookery with their hometown Des Moines, IA!
They enjoy working with local farms and highlighting homegrown vegetables in their dishes. Jules is a graduate of the Iowa Culinary Institute and a former Chef of Modern Love in Omaha. They opened up Hey Schweetie a vegan food truck in 2022.
Having had the opportunity to work with some of the finest restaurateurs in Des Moines; they plan someday to open a brick-and-mortar spot full of nostalgic Midwestern fare... veganized, of course!
You can keep up with them on their website:
Pauli Smith was born in San Francisco, CA and went to culinary school in Chicago, IL. She currently lives in Des Moines with her husband and two kids. Growing up in big cities she had the chance to explore many different cultures and their food. She loves the fact that Des Moines is growing so much and the options for culinary experiences is expanding!
Working with the Des Moines School District, she has made it her mission to teach children how to cook and show them all the different flavors that are out there. Pauli has worked in many areas of food service, but has always loved to teach cooking. She loves being able to share her knowledge of food with others and also loves learning new things herself.