By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILFORD — Taste of Home Cooking School culinary specialist Amy Zarichnak grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and has fond memories of making potato candy with her grandmother.
That's right, potato candy, which is a mixture of mashed potatoes, powdered sugar, milk, a dash of vanilla and peanut butter which is rolled up like a jelly roll and chilled before serving.
Zarichnak took center stage at the Gilford High School auditorium last night before a sold-out crowd of 600 cooking enthusiasts and demonstrated a wide range of recipes recipes including Buffalo chicken lasagna, crepe quiche cups, chilled chicken salad with honey jalapeno vinaigrette, sausage stuffed jalapenos, and sweet and sour pork wraps.
"I was thrilled to share my cooking knowledge with those at the show," she said.
She also remembers the Pittsburgh Steeler Super Bowl parties of the 1970s and says that when her family moved to a blue-collar rural area where her father had bought a gas station. Her father's idea of success was eating out at a really nice restaurant, many of which were 30 miles away.
"I enjoyed the trips immensely, from seeing new scenery to watching people who were, in my mind, really sophisticated to eating what I considered a very fancy meal. Although in reality, we were just at the hotel restaurant in a Holiday Inn."
She says those trips sparked her interest in food and even though she earned a communications degree at Penn State, after studying and living in England and Ireland, she never really felt that the marketing jobs she had were like a true fit for her.
After five layoffs in five years, she says she got the feeling that "God clearly wanted me to be somewhere else." She had applied to culinary school in 2009 but wasn't able to afford it. When she got a small windfall in late 2012, she enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America, where she graduated in 2014 with a 3.4 grade-point average and was also editor of the student newspaper.
She joined Taste of Home shortly thereafter and is now the Northeast culinary specialist for Taste of Home, doing about 30 shows a year.
"I love the Taste of Home brand. It's so comforting to me because it reminds me of the rural community that I grew up in, everyone sharing recipes and cooking for each other.
The show was co-sponsored by the Laconia Daily Sun and The Concord Monitor and is presented nationally by the National Honey Board, Eggland's Best eggs and the Original Copper Brand cheeses.
Amy Zarichnak talks to a full house of 600 people at Gilford High School for the Taste of Home Cooking Show last evening. She travels the Northeast presenting about 30 shows a year. (Roger Amsden photo for The Laconia Daily Sun)
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