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A woman of taste: Chef and writer shares memoirs, recipes

Chef and author Barbara J. Miachika will be holding book signings for her newly released memoir and cookbook, "The Accidental Baker: A cake for every crisis," at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Lake Placid Memorial Library, 205 W. Interlake Blvd.; and at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 8 at the Wednesday Lunch Club meeting at the Sebring Elks Lodge, 1601 Lakeview Drive.

"It is a great read about a very courageous woman," Lunch Club founder Diana Albritton said. "I love the way she did it. She took something she was very passionate about - cooking and baking - and made it the story of her life."

Entering Miachika's home, what overwhelms the senses isn't her exquisite taste, her handmade loomed weavings or the numerous cooking school certifications hanging on the wall; it is the heavenly aroma of fresh-baked Linzer cookies with raspberry jam.

Miachika shares the Sebring house with her husband, Mike Weiland, and her bearded collie, Gracie.

Baking has been the consistent thread throughout Miachika's life, from her memory as an 8-year-old using all of the family's World War II sugar rations to create her first baked Alaska to making salted caramel walnut pie for her pickleball teammates in the Tanglewood retirement community.

And like her textured wall hangings, Miachika, 81, has woven together 70 of her favorite recipes and cooking tips with brief glimpses into a life of opulence and crisis to create "The Accidental Baker."

"I think now I have something to share - what I have done and the lessons learned along the way," Miachika said.

She has spent the past three years working on the 406-page book that depicts her 30-year marriage to Anton Miachika, the lavish lifestyle they lived in Western Vancouver, their financial ruin, his death and her determination to create a good life for herself and her three sons, Anthony, Paul and David.

A wine connoisseur and talented chef, Miachika and her private cooking school, Cuisine de Barbara, were featured in the 10-page March 1986 Bon Appètit article, "The Robust Cuisine of Yugoslavia."

When the petite blonde first started the six-session cooking lessons in her Vancouver home in 1974, she had no formal training, but now she can boast of credentials that includes training through the House of Clarendon School of Confectionary Arts, L'Ecole LeNotre in France, Marcella Hazan in Italy, Gritti Palace in Venice and Master Chef Jaques Pèpin.

In the mid-1980s one of her students asked her to bake pastries for a visiting Iranian dignitary. After a thorough background check by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Miachika spent three days preparing a bevy of culinary delights for His Highness the Aga Khan.

"He loved anything chocolate," she recalled of the imam who presented her with a gold watch in appreciation for her "delightful pastries."

"I felt like I had won an Oscar!" stated Miachika in her book.

After the recognition she gained from the Bon Appètit article, Miachika was offered a chef position with a food service company in San Francisco. She eventually went to work as an executive chef at the Century Club of California, a distinguished women's club.

In 1997, Miachika married her current husband and opened her own company, Fun France Travels, which offered luxury wine tours.

A few years later, she founded The Beideman Street Group, a food and consulting business that catered to exclusive events.

A member of the International Food and Wine Society and the International Association of Cooking Professionals, Miachika met Julia Child during a culinary conference and received a signed copy of the famous chef's book "All about Bread."

A full-time Highlands County resident since 2006, Miachika has been a guest chef at local events and taught six-week cooking courses through South Florida State College.

Her initial job as a writer was for Highlands Today as its undercover food critic, "Miss Cuisine."

"I wrote this book because I wanted people to know your dreams are within your reach," Miachika said. "Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort box."

For more information on "The Accidental Baker, a cake for every Crisis" contact miachikab@yahoo.com or visit Amazon.com.