Read Zola's bio then scroll down for the
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Welcome to the Zola website. This is a NEW website so please be patient
and loyal. Visit weekly. We'll be loading in new recipes on a regular
basis -- almost DAILY! The more you visit, the more we'll build the
site. Zola is here to make your entertaining easier and less stressful.
"Simple Elegance" says it all. Zola Knows!
The fifth of seven children, born in 1957, just on the heels of the
Baby Boom and smack-dab in the middle of the Cold War, Zola was an
unlikely candidate for getting anyone to take notice, much less
achieve the reputation she now enjoys. Brainy, farsighted, and
cross-eyed, she began wearing pink glasses at just 18 months -
not only to correct her wayward vision, but to draw attention
away from the chaotic, uneven pixie haircuts that the local
cosmetology school offered up at fifty cents apiece.
Dinner in the Gorgon family household was predictable, if not
monotonous. The daily menu was inextricably linked to the day
of the week; Monday was chicken, Tuesday was meatloaf, and so
on. The meal-of-the-day approach wasn't just for convenience,
but for sanity. For years, Zola's mother cooked two dinners a
day - one for the residents of a local halfway house, and one
for her own family. Sometimes it was hard to tell the difference
between the residents.
Meals weren't intended to stimulate the palate as much as nourish
the body, and as such, they consisted largely of entrees and side
dishes that were, for reasons unspoken, never allowed to touch each
other on the plate. Zola suspected this was Dad's doing (a personal
quirk of dining etiquette that didn't stop him from combining food
items into a heaping mouthful on the fork) because when Dad
traveled, the kids were treated to the ultimate combination of
co-mingled ingredients, the casserole. So long as the casserole
wasn't created with a foundation of rice - the universal barf-inducing
ingredient that seemed to afflict all Gorgon children simultaneously
-- most of them passed the kid-test.
In another family, Zola's kitchen appearances might have been relegated
to drying dishes or scrubbing hardened mashed potatoes off the
Fiestaware. Whether it was setting the table at the halfway house
or baking chocolate chip cookies on snowy Wisconsin Saturdays or
a Graham Kerr-inspired concoction or just her unwillingness to
leave the house until she "grew breasts" (an event that, combined
with weight loss and eventually straightened eyeballs, made the
young Miss Gorgon observed with wide eyes by the town boys), Zola
quickly developed a great comfort for the kitchen. Most days,
it was the room with the greatest activity - so much that, upon
completion of a kitchen remodeling project, Dad didn't even bother
to put the doors back on the oft-opened-and-closed cabinets. By age
twelve, Zola was cooking up a storm in her place -- experimenting,
testing, mixing and trying again.
It wasn't until long after she'd left the house - after thousands of
family meals; after wildly successful Dallas-and-dinner parties at
her Chicago apartment; after countless first-conquerings of new
recipes - that Zola experienced her first gourmet gaffe, an apple
and mushroom casserole that caused her husband to complain of "way
too much going on in my mouth right now."
It's a memory that still evokes laughter twenty years later.
Zola Gorgon is all of that. And none of it.
In reality, Zola Gorgon is unreal - an invention, an alter-ego, a
double life of Madison CEO Sarah McCann.
Zola is what Sarah might be if she weren't running Apex Performance
Systems, the internationally regarded sales training company she
cofounded with her husband and partner, Chris Lytle, in the mid 1980s.
Zola is the persona that Sarah adopts more than thirty times a year,
hosting unique dinner parties for friends and colleagues in her
Fitchburg home. Zola is the character Sarah allows to come out and
play - just as an old football player becomes an armchair quarterback
on Sundays in the fall. And Zola is always willing to share Sarah's
ideas, recipes, and techniques with anyone who believes cooking should
be more fun than work.
And believe us, Zola knows.
View Zola's Philosophy of Entertaining (pdf)
Sarah McCann's guide to making dinner parties shine
with down-to-earth grandeur