By Lisa Shrewsberry
An energetic and multi-generational crowd of 550-plus attendees gathered to witness the making of 10 seasonal recipes from the stage and to possibly add a few to their repertoire courtesy of the Taste of Home Cooking School held Thursday evening at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.
The eager students were also unabashedly coed — many wives admitting their husbands wear the apron in the family and proudly making a date-night of the annual event.
For Joe Culicerto and wife Heike, it was their first Taste of Home Show and experience — neither had tried recipes from the culinary clearinghouse before, but were expectant to adopt a few of expert Cheryl Cohen’s onstage entrees.
“I brought him because he’s definitely the cook in our family,” Heike related.
Likewise, Rebecca Cook pointed to husband Russell as the spatula-bearer of their household. “If I find any new recipes, I’ll take them with me to the next restaurant we eat at,” he joked.
Where husbands and wives abounded, mothers and daughters did much more abound.
Four-year-old Sara Bess was in attendance with her nana Nancy Bess, mom Autumn Bess and sister Madison Bess.
“I helped my nana make 20 pumpkin pies once,” explained the outgoing, budding young chef. “I also help her make apple pies.”
Mom Autumn, adding to the culture of food heritage created by Nana, sought her own new flavor combinations at the show.
“We get stuck in a rut,” she explained. “I like to watch food shows on television, but it is so nice to see one live.”
Hers was a common sentiment echoed throughout the building — what a wonderful learning and entertainment opportunity for the Beckley community.
It was Linda Day’s fourth go at Taste of Home. She brought along with her daughter Cynthia Day, daughter-in-law Stephanie Day and longtime friend Helen Clemens.
“We’re here to enjoy the show and we’re here to win prizes,” she said, the North Star of the family Thanksgiving table and one not about to relinquish her post.
“I’ll fix the food, they’ll do the cleaning,” she laughed, indicating her family members. Cynthia made tonight her second show, recalling recipes she learned from her first show and her favorite Taste of Home issues. “I like the Stove Top Lasagna recipe. Taste of Home recipes are really good. They’re always quick and easy. They’re my kind of recipes.”
Culinary specialist Cohen, a veteran with Taste of Home’s cooking elite and a return demonstrator for the Beckley venue, took to the stage by way of bovine escort — the Chick-fil-A mascot. After a rousing crowd warm-up of stir-the-pot style stretching and T-shirt throwing, she demonstrated another of Taste of Home’s benefits, a health-conscious Chocolate Chunk Coffee Cake featuring national sponsor Domino sugar’s stevia blend Domino Light.
“You save 350 calories for every cup of sugar you substitute with Domino Light,” she explained. In addition to being made from easily accessible ingredients, many of Taste of Home’s recipes are taste-kitchen tested to be as healthy as they are delicious.
Vendors entertaining the audience with giveaways and samples pre-show included Sam’s Club, Pampered Chef, Mary Kay, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit and Chick-fil-A, also the sponsor of a “Spice up Your Seat” upgrade to front-row viewing for attendee Tiffany Terry of Daniels.
Dolores Moorman of Talcott was the Grand Home Furnishings winner of the Best Seat in the House La-Z-Boy recliner, with Glenda Cochran of Beckley winning the John Thomas dinette set grand prize giveaway furnished by Grand Home. Carol Blackburn of Prosperity won a Sears Kenmore Elite microwave.
Several gift cards courtesy of Kroger food stores, the official food sponsor, were also given away from the stage throughout the evening.
Adam Alkassmi, a representative for Crossroads Chevrolet, was happy his company chose to act as presenting sponsor of the Taste of Home Cooking School, due in part to the richly blended group.
“This type of show brings families, the type of crowd we want to reach with our vehicles. Everyone’s looking for fuel economy.”
In addition to marketing MPGs, Adam, another male member of the corps of head home chefs, attested his wife had sent him to the show with one warning: Come back with good recipes.