A sweet and savory sonata wafted through the Packard Music Hall in Warren to the delight of 1,300 people at the Taste of Home Cooking School on Tuesday night.
Eric Villegas, of PBS's "Fork in the Road," was the chef of the night, whipping up tasty recipes including Pumpkin Pie Muffins, Onion Yorkshire Pudding and Caramel Apple Strata at the Tribune Chronicle-sponsored event.
"I want to show how simple and easy it is to put quality food on the table every night," Villegas said.
Tribune Chronicle photos / R. Michael Semple
Taste of Home Chef Eric Villegas, from the PBS’s cooking show “Fork in the Road,” adds frosting to a pumpkin cupcake he prepared at the show before dipping it in chopped nuts.
His simple techniques, flexible style and enthusiastic personality exemplify the program's goal of "cooking, caring, sharing."
Villegas said growing up as a first-generation American - his parents both being from South America - cooking was part of the culture.
"My mother baked bread two to three times a week. We sat for dinner as a family. It was an important part of family," he said.
Few had a better view or smell of the dishes than Carson Marvin, 76, and his wife Sue Marvin, 74, whose names were drawn to sit in a VIP area on stage.
The two agreed that a chili recipe that included Italian sausage sounded especially appealing.
"I just like the different hints, like with the salt," Sue said, referencing Villegas' technique for sprinkling salt high above a dish to more evenly distribute it.
Shirley Walters of Bristolville, with her friend Jennifer Klingaman of Ashtabula, was also looking for hints.
"I come every year. They are awesome, just the way it's presented so well, everything," Walters said.
Walters, who makes and sells homemade pies, said she has been using King Arthur brand flour after learning about it several years back at one of the shows and credits it with making her baked goods even more delicious.
Kathy Jones of Warren came out early for the event with her daughter and two friends to get some cooking inspiration.
"The (recipes) are easy enough that you don't mind," she said. "It's fun. It's a night out."
Leaving the show, Sharon Sahli and her daughters, Alana and Laura, were already planning on making the Caramel Apple Strata.
"I was saying we need to go to White House Farm and get some apples," Alana said.
They along with others left with mouths watering and bags full of goodies provided by Save-A-Lot, Modern Home Kitchen and Bath Center and the Niles Best Buy.
"It's a sell-out," said Sue Shafer, Tribune Chronicle community events coordinator.
She said the show benefited a good cause.
"The ticket sales go to our Newspaper in Education literacy program. Since 1990, we've been putting papers in the hands of our students. We call it a living textbook."
In addition, many attendants donated nonperishable goods for the Second Harvest Food Bank, so much so that that a second large container was needed to carry it.