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‘You’re the Chef’ Begins Third Year on Public Television

What began as a menu option for cable homes in Williamsport five years ago has developed into a gourmet recipe for public television viewers statewide. The evolution of Pennsylvania College of Technology’s “You”re the Chef” continues in October when the cooking series” new season premieres on WVIA-TV.

“We’ve come a long way with the show,” said Tom Speicher, broadcast media specialist at Penn College and co-host/co-executive producer of “You’re the Chef.” “We started out in 1996 with a 60-minute local cable show that featured limited in-studio cooking. Two years later, we were cooking in a wonderful kitchen as part of a half-hour program airing on public television in many parts of the state. Now we’re ready to premiere a great, new season. It’s very exciting.”

“You”re the Chef” marks its third year on public television on Saturday, Oct. 14, at 12:30 p.m. on WVIA in northeastern Pennsylvania. WVIA is the producing station for “You’re the Chef,” which utilizes the culinary resources of Penn College’s School of Hospitality to showcase the preparation of practical dishes while promoting cooking as a fun, adventurous activity.

The series is hosted by Chef Paul Mach, an assistant professor at the College’s School of Hospitality; and Speicher, a cooking neophyte.

“The presence of a non-chef in the kitchen who represents the folks at home makes the series unique,” explained Mark Thomas, vice president of television at WVIA. “Plus, Chef Paul is very sensitive to the needs of viewers. From the fine diner to busy parents, he strives to show everyone how they can make a recipe work for them.”

Many viewers have made “You’re the Chef” a part of their steady diet.

“In two years on WVIA, ‘You’re the Chef’ has equaled and, in some cases, surpassed the ratings of the national public television cooking shows we air,” Thomas said. “Short of major sporting events, ‘You’re the Chef’ wins its time slot. A lot of cooking shows have come and gone since ‘You’re the Chef’ started. The fact that people enjoy it and learn from it is evident by the series coming back for a third (public television) season.”

The 14 new episodes will include “Beef Bash,” “Live Lobster,” “Terrific Tart,” “Classy Chicken,” “Pizza Party,” “Derby Dinner,” and “Seafood Sensation.” All the episodes were shot during the summer at Penn College’s main campus in Williamsport on a kitchen set designed and built by students, faculty and staff from the College’s School of Construction and Design Technologies.

“Many of the show topics are in response to the ideas and suggestions of viewers,” Mach said. “For all of our shows, we cook with products that are readily available in the supermarket (Wegmans donates the food products for “You’re the Chef”). A few of the dishes, like the lobster recipes, might cost a little more money, but we share restaurant secrets that will help viewers create the same dish with the flavors that they are looking for.”

In addition to Mach’s expertise, the new season features practical culinary tips and advice from current Penn College School of Hospitality students Anthony Sabol and Megan Trice and recent graduate Rachel Brown. Each 45-second “Cooking Key” elaborates on a procedure utilized in a “You’re the Chef” episode.

“The students play an important role in the show’s success, as does Tom’s inexperience in the kitchen,” Mach said. “Tom will ask questions that people will be thinking about at home and might be afraid to ask. He fills in the blanks and makes viewers who aren’t accomplished chefs feel more comfortable. If Tom is not afraid to try it, nobody should be!”

According to Thomas, the good-natured interaction between Mach and Speicher is an important ingredient for the series.

“Some cooking shows can be rather formal and slow,” he said. “”You”re the Chef” is not like that. The banter between Chef Paul and Tom keeps the show lively and entertaining while facilitating a quick pace.”

For his part, Speicher believes the new season is the strongest in the series” history.

“No matter your individual tastes, there is something for everyone this year on ‘You’re the Chef,’ even vegetarians,” he said. “Chef Paul and I always have worked well together, but I think we reached a new level as we produced this season’s episodes. In addition, our new director at WVIA, Kris Hendrickson, has done a wonderful job in giving the show a really sharp look and feel.”

Adds Mach, “We had great fun doing this year’s shows.”

Besides WVIA, public television stations in Harrisburg, State College and Philadelphia have aired the last two seasons of “You’re the Chef.” About a dozen other stations in the continental United States, as well as the PBS affiliate in Guam and Tele-Quebec, a station serving the province of Quebec in Canada, still have plans for airing last season’s episodes.

Thomas expects those stations and many others to be attracted to the series’ new season.

“It’s our hope and goal that the number of stations airing the show will continue to grow,” he said. “There is a lot of competition, but we believe ‘You’re the Chef’ can be very competitive in the cooking genre.”

During its years on public television, “You’re the Chef” also has satisfied the appetite of on-line chefs. The series’ popular Web site, has attracted recipe-contest submissions from throughout the United States and the world, including Chile, Australia, Peru, China, Mexico, England and Germany.

“Even Chef Paul was stumped with a recipe submitted from Germany,” Speicher said. “He had to find someone to translate it. Before it was translated, I finally knew as much about a recipe as Chef Paul!”

The complete list of this season’s show subjects and recipes follows:

#301 “Beef Bash” Recipe: Sauteed Beef Tenderloin with Madeira Stewed Crimini Mushrooms, Baby Spinach & Red Bell Peppers

#302 “Cool Salads” Recipes: Contemporary Waldorf Salad; Wilted Fennel, Smoked Turkey, Mushroom & Pepper Salad

#303 “Live Lobster” Recipes: Roasted Fresh Maine Lobster; Contemporary Cold Water Lobster Thermidor

#304 “Veggie Lovers’ Lasagna” Recipe: Chef Paul’s Vegetarian Lasagna

#305 “Terrific Tart” Recipe: White & Bittersweet Chocolate Raspberry Tart

#306 “Seafood Sensation” Recipes: Shellfish & Seafood Stew; Gamberetti a la Crema

#307 “Soups of the Day” Recipes: Kidney Bean, Black-eyed Pea & Turtle Bean Stew; Chilled Cantaloupe & Raspberry Soup

#308 “Pizza Party” Recipes: Balsamic Caramelized Vidalia Onion, Pancetta Bacon, Apple & Three Cheese Pizza; Three by Two Seafood Pizza

#309 “Sea Snacks” Recipes: Crabmeat Stuffed Mushrooms; Sweet Chili Shrimp on Cucumber “Tagliatelle”

#310 “Derby Dinner” Recipes: Churchill Downs Prime Rib Roast; Kentucky Derby 2000 Seafood Salad, Mediterranean Style

#311 “Chocolate Fantasy” Recipe: Le Jeune Chef Chocolate Soup

#312 Beef & Chicken Special Recipes: Braised Chuck Steak with Herbs & Root Vegetables; Herb & Garlic Roasted Chicken

#313 “Meatless Meal” Recipe: Sauteed Portabella Mushroom Sandwich with Hummus & Tabbouli Salad

#314 “Classy Chicken” Recipe: Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Marsala, Vegetables & Penne Pasta

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