Sibby Barrett’s Onion Creek Kitchen is an idyllic Hill Country oasis of well-appointed cabins, cooking classes and spa delights such as massage and yoga.
But she was an entrepreneur long before starting this enterprise atop a hill in the Blanco River area southwest of Austin.
The Dallas bakery she started, Dallas Affaires Cake Co., is still operating after 20-plus years and she ran a retail florist for 11 years.
“I loved what I was doing in Dallas, but I didn’t like being removed from the basics of cooking, entertaining and being with my guests.” Barrett says that her life was becoming more and more tied up with repairing refrigerators, dealing with workers’ compensation issues and other details of “running a business”
That’s about the time she started looking back on her childhood, when her oilman grandfather would drive her through the Hill Country while he got signatures on leases. “It was an enchanted land to me,” she says.
Barrett was seeking a place to build a retreat for herself and her partner. “It needed to be somewhere about an hour from an airport.” Soon, her realtor found exactly the right place and construction started.
“I planned the kitchen to be large enough for cooking and entertaining,” she says. “It’s a common thread with everyone at parties that you end up in the kitchen.”
When the kitchen was finished, they would have get-togethers with plenty of people – friends from Austin and Dallas. Barrett had ingredients on hand, and often, everyone would pitch in on the cooking. One day someone said, “You should be charging for this!”
Soon after that, Barrett created a Web site advertising cooking classes and events. “This was in the midst of building the cabins, mostly for friends and family. Then the idea evolved that maybe people coming for classes could stay overnight.” It all came together and today they have a multi-faceted operation.
One thing Barrett loves about her classes and food events is the diverse group of people who participate. “Young, old, gay, straight, people who know a lot about cooking and some who don’t. Our guests are not all politically aligned. But we all have this in common – we’ve had childhoods and know the comfort that preparing food can create.” she says that when people in the classes come together over chopping and mixing ingredients, there’s a thread they all share about past experiences. “Food does that!”
So how does she handle the constant stress and demands of her life?
“I tell people that it’s like yoga – you get into a place where you stop thinking about past and present, judgments and criticism and negativity – I’m so happy to be doing what I love so much that it’s almost like being in a meditative state.”
Barrett’s next project is building a larger teaching kitchen with an event center attached so that they can have more elaborate dinners and wine tastings.
She’s definitely sticking with it. “Because I’m enjoying it and having a good time, why not?”