Denver’s Nolt has the recipe for success

By on March 28, 2018
Dawn Nolt works with daughter Natalie as they taste a Lemon Pie Shooter dessert. Photo by Art Petrosemolo

Dawn Nolt works with daughter Natalie as they taste a Lemon Pie Shooter dessert. Photo by Art Petrosemolo

The consumer-driven cooking industry is a multimillion-dollar business with celebrity-hosted television shows, glossy magazines and internet blogs discussing food, providing recipes, cooking tips and more. And, don’t forget QVC and similar cable TV shopping sites for gourmet cooking pans and other related paraphernalia.

To keep this business afloat, there are recipe creators, test-kitchen chefs, cooking-show hosts, food writers, food stylists and food photographers, among others.

In Lancaster, Dawn Nolt is a food wizard that does a little of it all, and does it well for Nature’s Yoke specialty eggs, part of Westfield Egg Farm Inc. in New Holland.

It’s a job that Nolt balances as a stay-at-home mom with a family of four children (ages 5 to 15). She has no formal education as a chef, food stylist or photographer. And, she admits, she wasn’t even looking for a job in the first place, but loves the way it turned out.

Nolt’s career got started almost by accident when her husband, Rodney Nolt, joined Westfield Egg Farm a decade ago after first working as a business consultant for his close friend and Westfield Egg owner, George Weaver III. The egg company has been in the Weaver family for almost 60 years.

In reviewing the egg company’s marketing outreach at the time, management felt that parts of the company website needed to be refreshed.

“Everyone felt that there needed to be updates to the recipes and better photographs of the completed dishes,” Dawn Nolt said.

At the time, the company also was becoming active on social media platforms.

Westfield Egg’s management knew — from first-hand experience — that Nolt was a great cook and a dedicated amateur photographer. They asked her if she would take on the responsibility and she has worn the multiple marketing hats for the past four years.

Nolt met her husband Rodney, who is currently CEO of Westfield Egg, in 2000 in Colorado at a Bible School held by their church. They were married in 2001 after a seven-month courtship that brought them together only five times before saying “I do.” Since then, the Nolts have lived in Colorado, Africa, and Pennsylvania.

In 2003, the pair — with their first child in tow — moved to Ghana, in West Africa, where they spent one year as part of the Charity Africa mission before ultimately settling in Lancaster in 2005. Rodney Nolt is a Lancaster County native. The family lived in Ephrata for 10 years and recently moved to a cozy home on 2.3 acres in nearby Denver.

Nolt tests all her food creations in a standard kitchen with the same type of electric stove any home might have.

It took her about seven months to review, update and test the Nature’s Yoke recipes she inherited, photograph the results, and upload the information to the website.

“Some recipes that we felt were not healthy and used too many processed ingredients were eliminated,” she said. “We made sure that fresh ingredients, many available right from farms and produce stands here in the county, were part of the completed recipes… Also, we wanted them to be easy to make, tasty, eye-pleasing and, naturally, use the company’s organic Nature’s Yoke eggs.”

Nolt works closely with Helen Leibee, of New Holland, who handles social media for the company. Leibee posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and works closely with Nolt to coordinate posting a new recipe for special days or holidays to create a little social media buzz.

Growing up as a member of a conservative Mennonite community in Indiana, Nolt said that her mother, Virginia, was a wonderful cook. From her mother, she learned the basics early and has continued to perfect her craft while living in the United States and as a missionary in Africa. She said she creates meals to please family and friends, with familiar as well as not-so-familiar ingredients.

For the four years she has been creating recipes for Nature’s Yoke, Nolt has been cooking them in her family’s kitchen, and then testing them on her husband and children for approval.

“All the recipes naturally contain eggs,” Nolt said. “If I get a thumb’s up from the family, I do some basic food styling so the dish has a nice presentation — but never enhanced to look fake — photograph it on my dining room table (sometimes before everyone gets a chance to really dig in) and upload it to Nature’s Yoke recipe pages on the company website.”

To date, Nolt has created, prepared, photographed, and posted more than 260 recipes. She continues to find, tweak and test dishes from family recipes, research, and suggestions. She makes her recipes family-friendly, simple and rarely uses any processed foods.

“I want the men or women who see and try these recipes not to be intimidated,” Nolt said, “so I work hard to be sure the recipe instructions are complete and understandable, and the photographs look exactly like the completed dish when made and set out for your family.”

Nolt’s creations run the gamut from appetizers to desserts and include many variations from the recipes created by her mother and family.

“My mother and her sister, Elsie, published a cookbook, The Basics and More, in 1998, when they put all the family recipes and suggestions from friends all over the Midwest into a spiral-bound 376-page book,” she said. “It has sold 150,000 copies, and for years was the leading selling Mennonite cookbook.”

Some of the recipes that grace the cookbook and have been adapted to the website include German pizza, molasses cookies and delicious pancakes.

Nolt also has been known to post recipes that originated in other countries, from West Africa as well as Britain – for instance, Toad-in-the-Hole is a unique British breakfast offering of sausages in a Yorkshire pudding batter.

Recently, Nolt worked with George Weaver IV, the son of Westfield Egg’s owner, and they produced the company’s first cooking video. The one-minute-plus production on the website features Nolt preparing sausage and egg tortilla cups with an overhead image showing her working, along with printed captions and musical accompaniment.

“We’re pleased with the result and will do more in the future,” she said.

Fortunately for Nolt, her husband loves everything she cooks, and her children, (Felicity, 15, Gilbert, 13, Addison, 9, and Natalie) will try anything.

“I have lots of freedom in the job,” Nolt said, “and experiment with many new recipes where I can use eggs and natural ingredients.”

She said working from home with active 5-year-old daughter Natalie – who is always looking for attention and wanting to help – can be a challenge.

It’s still too early to see how many of the Nolt children have picked up their mother’s food savvy. Nolt says her daughter, Felicity, is the baker, but her son, Gilbert, seems like he wants to be the chef.

“I am very blessed to be able to do what I do,” she said.

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