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‘You’re the Chef’ Returns for Fifth Season on Public Television

Its initial servings became regional favorites and passed the national taste test, but Pennsylvania College of Technology isn’t ready to enjoy dessert. Instead, The Pennsylvania State University affiliate is going back to the kitchen to satisfy even more appetites with the fifth course of its television cooking series “You’re the Chef.”

The Emmy-nominated and Telly Award-winning “You’re the Chef” begins its fifth public television season in northeastern Pennsylvania on Saturday, Oct. 12, at 12:30 p.m. on WVIA-TV. Distribution of the new season to public television stations across the country begins Oct. 20 by the National Educational Telecommunications Association.

“Without question, I believe the new season offers our best collection of episodes,” said Tom Speicher, co-host/co-executive producer of “You’re the Chef” and broadcast media specialist at the College. “From a production standpoint, the series looks very sharp. The content also is very engaging. We’ve never had so much fun doing the show, and I think viewers will pick up on those positive vibes. I even liked most of Chef Paul’s recipes!”

“You’re the Chef” once again pairs Chef Paul Mach, an assistant professor at Penn College’s School of Hospitality, with Speicher, a notoriously picky eater, to form a true culinary “Odd Couple.” Each episode features the culinary expertise of Mach, who is the recipient of the College’s Master Teacher Award, and the cooking-neophyte inquisitiveness of Speicher, who represents the average viewer by asking Mach questions about the dish of the day. The hosts dispense practical cooking advice, and the recipes feature readily available ingredients.

“We take pride in the practical nature of our recipes,” Mach said. “We feature realistic recipes because we don’t want people just to watch us cook. We want them to be able to cook the same type of dishes at home. As a side benefit of featuring readily available ingredients, it’s also very easy to torture Tom with various tastes!”

The new season’s 14 episodes include a wide variety of recipes, such as Mediterranean Grilled Lamb Pita, Creme Brulee Crab Cakes “Le Jeune Chef,” Eggplant Parmesan “Lasagna,” French Onion Soup, and Chicken Chasseur with Rice Pilaf.

“Some of the dishes we made were requests from viewers via our Web site,” Mach noted. “We even featured some Recipe Cravings Contest winners. Others are based on concepts that we teach in our School of Hospitality. Some recipes are common, but feature a unique twist or approach. And, once again, I had to snuff out Tom’s idea of doing a grilled cheese/tomato soup combo episode.”

Twelve of the shows were shot in a functional kitchen set designed and constructed by students, faculty and staff from the School of Construction and Design Technologies at the College’s main campus in Williamsport. Two grilling episodes were produced outdoors in a College courtyard. All the shows were taped during the summer.

“In a field crowded with cooking shows, we obviously want to enhance the product every year and make the show stronger,” said Mark Thomas, vice president of television at WVIA, which co-produces “You’re the Chef” with Penn College. “That happened this year. In particular, the energy and chemistry between Chef Paul and Tom reached a new level. Viewers will learn a great deal about cooking, but they will always come away with a smile on their face.”

Since national distribution of the series began in February 2001, “You’re the Chef” has generated plenty of smiles coast to coast as it has aired in nearly 45 percent of the country, including all five of the nation’s top markets (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco).

“We’re proud of the level of distribution that we have achieved to this point,” said Thomas, who also serves as co-executive producer of the series. “However, we continue to work hard at increasing the distribution. It’s important we remain out there in the minds of the decision-makers. The new season will definitely help with that. I strongly believe programmers will enjoy what they see.”

In addition to Mach and Speicher, viewers will enjoy valuable contributions from Penn College School of Hospitality students Barbara Willett of Johnstown, Errol Bell of Milton and Jay Harter of Williamsport. All three students wrote and hosted 45-second “Cooking Key” segments, focusing on an element related to the day’s featured dish.

Willett and Bell also served “You’re the Chef” behind the scenes as food production coordinator and program assistant, respectively. In addition, Graphic Design major Lauren Schuman fulfilled the role of food researcher and assisted with marketing materials.

“The students had great, positive attitudes,” praised Mach. “They understood the big picture. We are representing Penn College and the School of Hospitality through the series, and they gave their best effort, never losing sight of that vision.”

Three-time Emmy nominee Kris Hendrickson, “You’re the Chef’s” director/editor, also plays a critical role in crafting the series’ vision, according to Speicher.

“Kris has been very instrumental in working with us to push ‘You’re the Chef’ to the next level,” Speicher said. “In many ways, he is the unsung hero of ‘You’re the Chef.’ Considering where we started, it’s amazing what’s been achieved to date. And I know we wouldn’t be at this point without Kris’ invaluable contributions.”

“You’re the Chef” began in 1996 as a cable-access program in Williamsport. Two years later, Penn College collaborated with WVIA-TV, the PBS member station for northeastern Pennsylvania, to mold the series into a public television cooking show.

An instant ratings winner for WVIA, “You’re the Chef” became a staple on the schedules of other Pennsylvania public television stations in 1999. During the fall of 2000, the decision was made to take the series national. In February of 2001, NETA, a main distributor of how-to programs, began feeding “You’re the Chef” to public television stations nationwide.

“Not too many shows start on cable access, make a successful transition to public television and, not only survive, but thrive for five years,” Speicher said. “I think viewers have always appreciated the down-to-earth nature of the series and the fun way the practical culinary information is presented during each episode.”

During its run, “You’re the Chef’s” excellence has been recognized with two Telly Awards and Gold and Silver Paragon Awards. The series recently earned another high honor with a Mid-Atlantic Emmy Award nomination for outstanding entertainment program.

“If you would have told me back in 1996 when we started on cable that, several years later, we would have all these nice awards and be a successful national public television cooking series, I don’t know if I would have believed it,” Speicher said. “But then again, I wouldn’t have believed that I would come to enjoy Chef Paul’s professional cooking over my trusty standby of tomato soup and grilled cheese!”

The complete list of the fifth-season episodes and recipes follows. Support for the fifth season of “You’re the Chef” is provided by Wegmans of Williamsport, the exclusive food provider; Hunt Country Vineyards, donor of wine for the series; Steelite International and Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff, Co., donors of tableware; and Clear Channel Williamsport and SUSCOM, advertising/marketing donors.

More information on “You’re the Chef” is available online.

#501 “Wine Country Brunch” Wine Country Brunch Fry & Grits

#502 “Wellington Wildness” Beef Wellington, Madeira Sauce Chicken Wellington, Mushroom Sauce

#503 “Comfort Soups” French Onion Soup Split Pea Soup

#504 “Chef Paul Classics” Chicken Chasseur with Rice Pilaf Strawberry Whip Cream Cake

#505 “Mad About Mussels” Mussels, Mariner’s Style Baked Mussels with Chili Garlic

#506 “Eggplant Extravaganza” Eggplant Strudel Eggplant Parmesan “Lasagna”

#507 “Chicken Crepes” Chicken & Asparagus Crepes Crepes & Caviar Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing

#508 “Seafood Cakes” Crab Cakes “Le Jeune Chef” Mousseline of Shrimp “Cakes”

#509 “Asian Delights” Asian Shrimp, Pork & Vegetable Soup Fried Spring Rolls

#510 “Sweet Treats” Creme Brulee Festive Fruit Napoleon

#511 “Stuffed Steak” Stuffed New York Strip with Boursin Brown Sauce

#512 “Spanish Special” Paella Valenciana

#513 “Grilled Lobster” Grilled Sweet Potatoes & Broccoli Grilled Fresh Maine Lobster

#514 “Grilled Grub” Mediterranean Grilled Lamb Pita Mid-Western Brined & Grill Smoked Pork Eggplant Dip

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