Anya Knecht has been a lab manager/program coordinator at the Beckman Institute since she graduated in 2010 from the University of Illinois, but has always been one for healthy food, and more importantly, sharing food. What began as an idea to make lunches for busy farmers in the area and bringing her crock-pot creations to share with the lab, has now sprung into a website dedicated to one of Anya’s best: her breads. On her website, leadnfeed.com, twenty-nine homemade breads are available for choosing, from Lemon Blueberry Poppy Seed to Rosemary Garlic (my ultimate favorite). Her foodie philosophy is especially inspiring: it is more about the people and the time shared over the meal rather than the food. Her wisdom and passion has lead to Anya’s dream becoming reality, and Lead N’ Feed is a special symbol of achieving what you want, no matter what.
Spoon: What got you started with cooking and baking for the lab and now a website?
Anya Knecht: I started preparing farm lunches then ended up putting so many hours in the lab that if I wanted to do that, I would have to do it on my own schedule. Soon, I started bringing in lunch everyday and the Kramer Lab is so big anyways that I just opened it up to whoever wanted to eat. Then at one of the lab manager meetings, Mike (a co-worker) said, ‘Why don’t you call it Lead N’ Feed?’ The name started with the lab, when I would just end up bringing in a crock-pot of something.
Would you say there is a person, or thing, that inspires you when it comes to cooking?
AK: It is more of just the idea. I feel like in order for people to get what they need to get done in life, we all have to take care of our bodies. This is my dream and what I have told the lab for why I bring in food, is: they all work very hard and I appreciate it; I want you all to stay healthy and eat well so you can achieve your dream; if we can’t go out and drink together because we’re in the lab for more hours than the day permits than at least we can appreciate the cohesion we have while juggling session back to back over some soup; and because I like to cook and enjoy getting feedback. It is nice to have everyone around and be able to appreciate each other. I couldn’t do it without all the people who have helped support me through it. This website should be inspiration for people to go do what they need to do.
What is your favorite thing to make?
AK: It’s more about who it’s for, much less the food. I guess soup now, because it’s warm and there is always a large quantity of it and a lot of people can get together and enjoy it. A year ago, I would have said cakes because I was really into dessert.
What holiday food are you looking forward to the most?
AK: Orange candy pecan bread. It took a while to figure out how to make it.