TORRINGTON – Most of Torrington and the surrounding area only know Dr. Lesley Travers as the president of Eastern Wyoming College, guiding the post-secondary education of students from around the world.
She has another side. Several of them, in fact.
In addition to her academic work, she’s worked as a private-practice therapist, chaired the addictionology department at Casper College and later became chair of the School of Business and Industry at CC. She farms, ranches, sews, quilts and welds.
And, Travers is an accomplished cook, having studied with some of the biggest names in the business. She showed off those skills Tuesday during her “Cooking with the President” class, offered through the EWC Community Education Department.
More than a dozen Goshen County residents trekked through the cold and lingering snow Tuesday for Travers’s third cooking class since becoming the ninth president of the college, hosted in the demonstration kitchen, part of the Career and Technical Education Center on the EWC campus in Torrington, to learn everything they could about making tamales.
“I think it’s a good thing for the community to see and to join in,” Travers said. “I’ve tried to come up with things the community would be interested in.”
Travers started taking cooking classes when she was about 19 years old, she said, “Because I didn’t know how to boil water. It was terrible.
“I thought, if I’m going to feed myself, I need to learn how to cook.”
So, Travers jumped in to culinary classes while living in Missoula, Mont., with what she described as the typical zeal she applies to anything she’s interested in.
“I have this curiosity and, after a while, it becomes something else,” Travers said. “I took a welding class at Casper College, next thing you know, I’m taking a lot of welding classes.
“I took a sewing class to learn how to repair things, next thing you know I’m making quilts. It’s just kind of who I am.”
Between then and now, Travers has traveled around the country and around the world. And, wherever she goes, she’s talked to chefs and attended cooking classes, anything from half-a-day to several days, she said. Travers is not shy, she said, if she’s had a meal she really enjoyed, about asking to talk to the chef and to pick his or her brain for tips or techniques.
Travers’s favorite cuisines are Italian, Hungarian and Russian, but, “I’m game for just about anything.” She’s studied with such famous chefs as Creole legend Paul Prudhomme and New York legend, the late James Beard, of the much-sought James Beard Award, the pinnacle of awards for chefs the world around.
And she’s taught cooking classes and written her own cook book, At Home on the Range. Travers wrote it for her children, she said, who were constantly calling, asking her how to make specific items from her repertoire.
It’s the way Travers goes at everything she does – full-tilt, she said. But, she has to be careful about taking on new things because there are only so many hours in the day.
“I put my foot in the water and, the next thing you know, I’m learning about the whole kit and caboodle,” she said. “I have to be careful what I pick up, because I don’t have that much free time.
“I’m always wanting to learn something new,” Travers said. “As long as I’m here, I’m going to learn.”