The Thyme Is Right
Story by Angela Mattingly Breck
Gwyn Novak’s New State-of-the-Art Waterfront Kitchens Are a Welcome Addition to Local Culinary Scene With Its Inspired Cooking Classes & Events
Gwyn Novak is continuing a family tradition in Solomons. It’s one that she is very proud of.
In May, Novak moved her cooking school No Thyme to Cook to a brand-new, 4,000-square-foot building overlooking Solomons Harbor. The three-story structure may be new, but the property is steeped in history. 2018 marks a century that the property has been in Novak’s family. Her great-grandfather Mortimer Bowen ran the bar, restaurant, hotel and marina called Bowen’s Inn. When he passed away, Novak’s grandmother took over the operation. Next to run the business was Novak’s aunt, who did so until a fire destroyed the business in 2005. Novak is now the fourth generation to run a food service business there.
“This is such an honor for me to be able to continue the tradition my family began of creating great food and extending hospitality in our community,” Novak says.
A native Calvert countian, Novak spent her summers helping in the kitchen at Bowen’s. She attended The Calverton School before heading off to Bucknell University. After graduating from college, she went to American University for a master’s degree in international politics. While working at Williams-Sonoma “to pay the rent, and loving, loving the cooking side of things, and just not really loving my classes at American, I left,” she says.
She was then off to culinary school in Baltimore to earn a degree in professional cooking. What followed was a move to Maryland’s Eastern Shore where she started a business in 1999, providing personal chef services that ranged from meal planning, shopping and food preparation.
Novak says she missed home. That was her main reason for returning to Calvert County. Her husband Donald was happy “to come over this way” and the timing just seemed to work out perfectly. She continued to operate her personal chef business but expanded to include seasonal cooking classes at her home.
Novak says the process of opening No Thyme to Cook in the Solomons location took about three years.
The grand opening of the new waterfront kitchens was held in May 2018. The kitchens, on the first and second floors, include hands-on cooking stations and flat-screen monitors that show the instructor’s main cook station so students can watch the demonstrations from any place in the room.
The school offers on average about 12 classes a week. There is a regular schedule of classes for adults, and some for children, and then there are special events. Aspiring cooks can choose from an array of classes with titles such as
the Famous Chef Series, Couples in the Kitchen, Sunday Brunch, Farm to Table and the Ethnic Series. A recent Friday night featured Vine & Dine, a six-course meal with wine pairings. Since the school holds a liquor license, participants can enjoy a tasting or pairing while in some of the classes. There are even classes for the novice mixologist.
Novak says she thought about opening a restaurant on the property, “but I too much enjoy the teaching aspect of it, and a restaurant just takes over your whole life in a very different way.”
So there was a compromise. The Novaks are opening Steamers Seafood Shack. It’s a food truck in No Thyme to Cook’s parking lot that features fresh seafood takeout. On the menu, visitors might find steamed crabs, oysters, clams, shrimp, crab cakes and fried oysters.
“Fresh” is the key, she says. The business will be supporting local watermen. That philosophy also holds true on the food side.
“Everything we possibly can, we locally source. When I say locally source I mean ideally within Southern Maryland – from the salt and the wheat to the beer, the wine,” she says. “We always showcase local.”She often invites local growers and producers to speak at some of the classes.
“Someone who I think is doing something pretty cool, pretty great” speaks at some of the classes. “I give them the floor to talk about what it is they do and then I create a tasting menu from what they provide,” she says.
Classes have featured Monnett Farms and its all-grass-fed beef, lamb, goat and pig; Anchored Roots Farms that grows cut flowers, edible flowers, herbs, vegetables and microgreens; and Rhonda Goldman of A Taste of Southern Maryland community supported agriculture program, to name a few.
Joe and Amy Sheelar of Lusby have been to several classes Novak has taught out of her home and also at the new kitchens in Solomons.
The classes “are fantastic. We love coming here,” Amy says. “They spark some creativity. And everything is so simple and fresh,” Joe says.
“Gwyn makes it look so easy,” Amy pipes in. “She sends you the recipes, then you can try them at home.”
The Sheelars agree No Thyme to Cook is unique.
“There is nothing else like this around,” Joe says.
No Thyme to Cook is at 14624 Solomons Island Road in Solomons. To learn more about upcoming classes, go to nothymetocook.com, call 443-624-5048 or email email@example.com.
Bon appetit! •