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TV Pioneer to Cook Live With ‘You’re the Chef’ Hosts

Past and present hosts of television cooking shows will combine their culinary skills to make delectable dishes during WVIA-TV’s pledge drive on Saturday, Dec. 9, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Janet Eyer Miller, a television pioneer in northeastern Pennsylvania, will join Chef Paul Mach and Tom Speicher, the hosts of WVIA’s current popular cooking series “You’re the Chef,” for live cooking. At the WVIA studios in Pittston, Miller is scheduled to help the “You’re the Chef” duo cook Creamy Winter Squash and Leek Soup, Smoked Pork Strudels and Caramel Apple Cheesecake.

“It’s an honor to share the stage with someone like Janet Miller,” said Speicher, a broadcast media specialist at Pennsylvania College of Technology, which produces “You’re the Chef” in conjunction with WVIA, the PBS affiliate in northeastern Pennsylvania. “Even though she hasn’t been on the air here for about 40 years, I’ll bet there are still many people who recall her contributions to broadcasting in this part of the state.”

Miller hosted two different cooking/homemaker shows in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton television market from 1953-58.

A television column from the early 1950s called “Local Teletype” illustrated Miller’s trailblazing role in the fledgling medium by stating: “All of the TV stations here are breaking out with a rash from the ‘home economy’ fever. Janet Miller started it all with her show ‘Your Home and Mine’ on Channel 73 in Scranton, and all of the other stations have installed complete kitchens with plans for their own Mother Hubbards to open the cupboard on TV soon.”

After doing “Your Home and Mine,” Miller moved over to WARM-TV Channel 16 to host “At Home with Janet.” The 30-minute, weekday program aired live, as Miller featured various recipes and home tips for housewives. Occasionally, Miller invited viewers to appear on the show for special events, such as potluck lunches. Regular features included the restaurateur of the month.

Miller’s show ended shortly after WARM-TV became WNEP-TV. Forty-two years later, WNEP-TV plans to do a feature on Miller’s return to the local airwaves. The segment on Miller is scheduled to air Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. on WNEP’s “Home & Backyard” show.

“Janet is 80 years old now, but I’m sure she’ll feel very comfortable once again engaging in live television,” Speicher said. “Somebody with her experience never forgets the feeling of doing a live show. It is amazing that she used to do a live cooking/homemaker show every day. She wasn’t spoiled as we are with ‘You’re the Chef.’ We tape our episodes. We can fix a mistake!”

Following her live television work, Miller, a 1942 graduate of The Pennsylvania State University, taught at a private vocational school before becoming a Penn State Extension home economist. For the last 12 years, Miller has resided in New Bern, N.C.

Miller, her deceased husband Robert Henry Miller, Jr. (Class of 1940), and their daughters Donna Miller Wilder (Class of 1964) and Lynn Miller McClay and Susan Miller Howell (both Class of 1967), all graduated from Penn State.

Miller’s connection to Penn State led to her involvement with the Dec. 9 “You’re the Chef” pledge segment on WVIA. Miller’s daughter, Susan Miller Howell, read a story about “You’re the Chef” in an issue of the Penn State Newswire, an e-mail newsletter for the media as well as alumni and friends of the university. The story focused on the growing success of “You’re the Chef,” which is aired on many public television stations in Pennsylvania. “You’re the Chef” utilizes the resources of Penn College’s School of Hospitality, and Penn College is a special-mission affiliate of Penn State.

Howell contacted Speicher at Penn College, explained her mother’s history and pitched the idea of Miller making a return TV engagement, courtesy of “You’re the Chef.”

“We are very happy that everything worked out and that Janet will be able to cook with us live on Dec. 9,” Speicher said. “It should be a fun time for all. Besides, Chef Paul is happy to finally have someone with him on TV who knows something about cooking!”

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