Cynthia Kaye McWilliams just can’t leave Chicago. Every time she tries—she’s taken off for L.A. twice—she ends up back in the city she first called home in 1999, when she moved here to study acting at DePaul University. Among the many things she loves about returning here is shopping at all the local boutiques.
“ ‘Independently owned’ [stores] always makes shopping more interesting. It’s more personal this way,” Williams says. That belief, along with her love of cooking, explains her attraction to locally owned The Wooden Spoon, a five-year-old gourmet kitchen-supply store in Andersonville that also offers a full range of cooking classes. As she roams around the tastefully arranged shop, McWilliams admires the thought behind the merchandise selection. Nearby, owner Trina Sheridan chats happily about the shop’s popular silicone-tipped tongs, while a chef-instructor readies the kitchen area in back for a morning cooking class. The Spoon also boasts a backyard patio, where “BBQ Kick-Off” and “Lazy Sunday Grill” classes occur in warm months.
Popular notions about actors might lead you to picture McWilliams eating ramen noodles at every meal, but that’d be off the mark. She loves to prepare food from scratch; among her favorite dishes are banana-pecan pancakes, apple pie and lasagna. Because she began learning culinary skills from her mom at an early age, stories about cooking together come naturally as McWilliams strolls the store. She’s drawn to some items because they’ll fit into her small kitchen; others, like a pair of “really cool” Onion Goggles, will go into a care package to send to her mom in Kansas. “I can chop up a storm of onions without crying,” she confides, “but my mom’s always affected.”
Prior to a recent stint in L.A., McWilliams played a recurring role in the filmed-in-Chicago Fox TV series Prison Break. Now that she’s back, she’s making her Chicago stage debut in Court Theatre’s The First Breeze of Summer, which opens Saturday 24. And once the regular run begins and long days of rehearsal are behind her, she can start thinking about other warm-weather activities— like the events in Spoon’s backyard. “With summer coming up,” she vows with a grin, “I’m going to take a grilling class.”
Cynthia Kaye McWilliams’s favorite finds
1. Butterfly apron “I fantasize about the 1950s, when everybody looked really pretty [while they cooked]. This one’s really cute and summery.” $14–$25.
2. Mini French press “I’m obsessed with [coffee]. But I don’t drink it as much now, so this is the perfect one-cup size.” $17.
3. Collapsible measuring cups “I have a tiny apartment, so I’m fascinated by space savers. I love collapsible stuff.” $20.
4. Crème brûlée torch “I like to make food that makes me feel like I’m at a restaurant. And you can use this for many things, like roasting vegetables or searing tuna. Carmelizing!” $24.
The Wooden Spoon, 5047 N Clark St (773-293-3190, woodenspoonchicago.com).
McWilliams appears in The First Breeze of Summer, blowing into Hyde Park’s Court Theatre’s through June 15, 5535 S Ellis Ave (773-753-4472, courttheatre.org).