LEWISTOWN - The creation of mouth-watering recipes and the awarding of coveted prizes got a big rise out of the Taste of Home Cooking School crowd Saturday afternoon, but so did a poignant moment when Chef Michael Barna made a serving suggestion that was a little out of the ordinary.
After demonstrating the preparation of Pulled Pork Tostadas with Slaw and Chipotle Cream -the eighth of 10 dishes he prepared live on stage - the Taste of Home culinary specialist recommended that dinners be served on platters and at the dining room table. Even if the kids are upstairs in their rooms, he said, "they'll smell it and come down."
And when they do, Barna said, don't let them take their dishes back up to their rooms, but instead, invite them to sit down. Also, "get a wicker basket and have them put all of their little things in it and then put the basket up on top of the refrigerator."
Taste of Home Cooking School Culinary Specialist Michael Barna presents finished Mrs. Dash Braised Beef Short Ribs to the crowd at the cooking show Saturday at Mifflin County High School.
SENTINEL photos by BUFFIE BOYER
Then, enjoy a family meal and talk.
The crowd in the Mifflin County High School auditorium burst out with applause at the sentiment as well as the recipe.
Barna, who has conducted the cooking show twice in the past in Lewistown, was actually scheduled to appear on Saturday at the Taste of Home Cooking School in Lewiston, Maine. Scheduled for the Lewistown show was Chef Cheryl Cohen, who was the culinary specialist at the last local show, held in November 2011.
Barna explained, during a Meet and Greet session for VIP ticketholders before the show, that the last minute switch was made to enable him to attend the funeral of his 97-year-old grandmother, who just passed away.
During the Meet and Greet, "the VIPers," as Barna called them, learned a little more about the chef and the behind-the-scenes activity that takes place to make the show possible.
The group enjoyed refreshments and took a backstage tour, where they saw the six kitchen assistants busy making advance preparations needed to make the onstage cooking go like clockwork.
Barna, from Philadelphia, said he has been a culinary specialist with Taste of Home for two and one half years, and is still the rookie of the group. "When these jobs come up, no one wants to leave them."
He conducts shows about every two days. "Four days ago I was in New Hampshire, and two days ago I was in Lancaster," he said. "For six months out the the year, I do shows - March, April and May, September, October and November. What do I do for the rest of the year?
"Get ready for the next shows," he said, answering his own question. In fact, for the next two weeks, he will be recipe-testing at home for next spring's shows.
Before concluding the Meet and Greet, Barna urged "the VIPers" to clap and holler during the show because when they and the kitchen assistants on stage do so, "it drives the whole rest of the audience; it really drives these shows."
The number one objective of the show, Barna said, "is for you to have fun. You're here to have a ball."
COOKING Assisting Barna before and during the show were local volunteers JoAnn Ranck, Carla Billheimer, Connie Knepp, Starla Folgleman, Evelyn Houser and Sandra Wagner.
The Taste of Home Cooking School was brought to Lewistown by The Sentinel. Sponsors were: Capperella Furniture, grand prize sponsor; Walmart Supercenter, grocery sponsor; Lake Chevy, food drive sponsor; Waterfront Tavern, ticket sponsor; Michael's Sales and Service, appliance and grand prize sponsor; Hoover Bernina Sewing, bag sponsor; Lewistown Hospital, bag sponsor; and Allensville Planing Mill, cabinetry/countertop sponsor.
In addition, vendors who appeared at the show included: Lewistown Hospital, Lake Chevy, Capperella Furniture, Extrava Market/Rich Coast Coffee, Tastefully Simple, Jordan Essentials, Sarah's Sweetz, Wal-Mart, Stone Arch Real Estate, APM and J.J. Powell.
Heritage Gardens, Lewistown, provided the stage decor, and the Mifflin County Dairy Princess Committee provided the dairy items used in the recipes. The Lewistown Assembly of God Youth Group stuffed the gift bags.
The national food sponsors were: Domino Sugar, Egg-Land's Best, Gallo Family, Johnsonville Italian, Mrs. Dash, National Pork Board, Saladmaster and Shop Taste of Home.
The food page in Wednesday's edition of The Sentinel will include some of the recipes prepared on stage during the show, as well as some of the cooking tips offered by Barna.