Beverly Pruden, a personal chef, trims basil and parsley in the kitchen of her east-side home. She says she’s loved doing things herself since she was a child.

Ron Medvescek / Arizona Daily Star

Beverly Pruden’s livelihood depends on people being too busy to cook for themselves, yet that’s exactly what the in-home chef hopes to teach them.

The owner of Cooking Good, a home-cooking service, is planning to present a series of free classes on healthy eating through home cooking.

“I can’t take on a lot more business and I thought, ‘Gee, what can I offer to share my expertise and experience in the community,’ ” she said. “One of the most powerful things I do is home cooking. This is an opportunity to encourage people to cook at home.”

Pruden has a degree in environmental health, but she found that cooking fed her creativity. Four years ago she started Cooking Good. She works with clients to develop menus based on their tastes, health goals and dietary needs. She does all the shopping, brings her own cookware to each client’s home and cleans up after she stocks their refrigerator or freezer with home-cooked meals.

With so many choices for eating out or eating pre-made foods, why is home cooking important?

“Home cooking is very important because it is the only way to know what you are eating, to be able to control what you are eating. Restaurant food is wonderful, and there are so many talented chefs and it’s a great resource in our community, but for most people eating at a restaurant every night will probably mean they are getting too much salt, sugar, fat, that sort of thing.”

Salt, sugar, fat — yum!

“They are all delicious and they are the spice of life so to speak, but the tendency is to enjoy those foods a little too much. By cooking at home, it’s much easier to rein in those types of ingredients, but also to be cooking reasonable amounts of things rather than a larger portion of things that may not be suitable. That type of indulgence on an occasional basis is good or that type of indulgence with small portions is OK if you are careful. But it’s really hard to do when you are flying around trying to live your life. Home cooking is an investment in your health, and it does take time.”

What is your experience as a chef?

“I became a personal chef in three stages. The first part of my journey is that I have always been a creative person. I love cooking and trying new things and especially I love doing things myself. Even from a young age I didn’t want to buy an apple pie. I wanted my mom to buy the apples and let me try to make one myself.

“The second stage of my journey, when I was in college I was into all kinds of crazy fad dieting, convinced I had to lose weight for who knows why. As a result I was binge-eating and going on crazy diets and it was a vicious cycle. There came a point when I saw my health deteriorating, and I decided to stop that and embrace eating healthy. The easiest way to describe it was clean eating, whole foods, variety, lots of fruits and vegetables and reasonable portions.

“Really, the third stage of my journey was when my dad got really sick and my mom was struggling to take taking care of him. I quit my admin job to help cook. It was such a wonderful feeling to know they were getting the meals they needed and enjoying their time together.

“I realized I really wanted to do this for other people. I think there’s a need out there. That’s when I started my business.”

What is the most profound impact you have experienced as a result of home cooking?

“When I was in college, I had such horrible habits and I realized I didn’t want this for myself. When I methodically and with great persistence changed those eating habits, it was night and day. I felt so much better and I do see that in my clients as well. I have clients who are dealing with digestive issues and malnutrition, so it’s very satisfying to see their nutrition improve, reports from their doctors improve.

“It’s very gratifying. You’re in their homes cooking for them and I feel very honored to be invited into that space. Eating and cooking ties into all aspect of people’s lives, and that is very special to me. I really love my clients. They are all special, unique people and I care for them.”

Kimberly Matas is a Tucson-based freelance writer. Contact her at kimmataswriter@gmail.com.