New Season of 'You're the Chef' to Premiere Oct. 16

Published 09.23.2004


Co-hosts Tom Speicher (left) and Chef Paul Mach have some fun on the set of public television's 'You're the Chef.'The seventh season of the award-winning "You're the Chef," a half-hour cooking show produced by Pennsylvania College of Technology and WVIA Public Television, will premiere Oct. 16 in Pennsylvania.

The season consists of 14 all-new episodes and will air in northeastern Pennsylvania on Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30 p.m. on WVIA. In central Pennsylvania, "You're the Chef" airs Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on WPSX, a public television station based in State College.

National distribution for the new season will begin in early November. Since going national in 2001, "You're the Chef" has aired in nearly half the country, including all five of the nation's top markets.

"We're very excited about the new season," said Tom Speicher, co-host and co-executive producer. "Without a doubt, I think it's our best. The quality is the highest it's been. We got to go outside the studio more for fun, informative segments. The hallmark of the show remains family-friendly, practical recipes made with readily available ingredients."

The show, hosted by Speicher, broadcast productions coordinator at Penn College; and Chef Paul Mach, assistant professor of food and hospitality management/culinary arts, uses the resources of Penn College's School of Hospitality and Le Jeune Chef Restaurant, along with the talents of a television crew from producing station WVIA in Pittston.

"I believe the high quality of 'You're the Chef' is representative of the excellent relationship between WVIA and Penn College," said Thomas M. Curr, vice president of television at WVIA and "You're the Chef's" co-executive producer. "We've always been quite proud of the series, but for this season, the show reaches new heights. Fresh production elements, combined with more on-location shoots and the natural chemistry of Chef Paul and Tom, push the show to the top. The seventh season is good enough to air on any station in the country."

This year, the show incorporates the theme "From the Heartland of Pennsylvania."

"I tried to focus on one-pot dishes and simmered dishes," Mach said. "I used dishes that tend to utilize less-expensive cuts of meat. I used dried beans and a variety of greens and fresh vegetables with the idea of showcasing, as always, dishes that are easy to prepare and using methods that are common to the Heartland of Pennsylvania."

As a result, he said, the cast and crew went to farms in the region to seek ingredients that are produced in Pennsylvania and featured them in some of the dishes made on the show.

In addition to video footage from farms, the new season includes trips to a grocery store and segments shot in New Orleans last January, when the "You're the Chef" staff was there for a conference.

Mach said: "In New Orleans, you see the fruits of the sea. They fish and harvest out of the ocean. We had a chance to look at those items and to come back and show people how to make dishes with them."

Again this year, Penn College students fill roles both on camera and behind the scenes. Rachel S. Hall, Altoona, served as the series' food production coordinator. She is pursuing both a bachelor's degree in Culinary Arts Technology and an associate's degree in Dietary Manager Technology. Christine L. Faherty, Wantage, N.J.; and Jennifer R. McHenry, Lock Haven, served as the show's student interns. Both are pursuing double associate's degrees in Culinary Arts Technology and Dietary Manager Technology.

The Culinary Arts students made behind-the-scenes food preparations and ensured everything on the set including serving dishes, ingredients, pots, pans and even the decorative flowers was ready and in place. They also researched, wrote and starred in the show's "Cooking Keys" segments, produced by Mach.

"Working with the staff of students was really a highlight. We became a close-knit team as the summer rolled on," Mach said. "The research and the effort they put into making sure the set and the ingredients were prepared properly can be seen in the quality of the shows this year."

Mark A. Blanchard, Watsontown, who is pursuing a bachelor's degree in Graphic Communications Management, served as the show's marketing assistant. He took still photos and helped to develop the show's promotional materials.

"The students play a huge role in the success of the series," Speicher said. "We're fortunate. In addition to informing and entertaining viewers, the show serves as an important educational tool for Penn College students."

The 45-second "Cooking Keys," which give additional pointers to the home cook, take on a new look this season. They were shot in the Le Jeune Chef kitchen, with activity all around the students.

"We had a wonderful time working with the students and WVIA in producing the show," Speicher said. "We are blessed to have a director/editor as talented as Kris Hendrickson from WVIA, and the entire crew is great to work with."

All 14 of the show's episodes were shot over the summer in a kitchen set designed and constructed by students, faculty and staff in Penn College's School of Construction and Design Technologies.

"I think the focus on practical recipes and the dynamic between a wonderful chef and a cooking novice make 'You're the Chef' unique in the cooking-show genre," Speicher said. "I think Chef Paul and I have an attractive on-air rapport. It's definitely fun to work with him."

Mach said the culinary techniques that Speicher doesn't grasp are similar to what the average person at home who is not a professionally trained cook doesn't understand.

"Tom lends that realistic feel to the show because instead of two people gushing over the food, here's Tom, who needs to be coached," Mach said. "The techniques he doesn't do right are often the difference in making the food come out really professionally, and they are the things that are easy to learn at home."

Episodes for the season begin with "Appetizing Artichokes," which features two artichoke-based recipes. Other episodes feature Mexican, Italian, Asian, Cajun and breakfast foods, as well as seafood, breaded food, souffles, braised foods, country cooking and bread-baking.

But among Speicher's and Mach's favorites are an episode that features football food and a "Soup and Sandwich" episode that includes recipes from Speicher, Mach and a viewer for grilled-cheese sandwiches.

"I was ecstatic that we finally got to do a grilled-cheese show," Speicher said.

The episode was a highlight for Mach, as well. "Tom was actually shocked when I suggested we do that," he said. "We had a viewer from Florida who was disappointed because she thought she had missed the grilled-cheese show because we joked about it so much."

From 7 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 14 two days before the new season premieres in Pennsylvania Mach, Speicher and some of the "You're the Chef" students will be guests on WVIA's "State of Pennsylvania." The group will perform a live cooking demonstration in the WVIA studio, take calls from viewers and celebrate the upcoming season.

"You're the Chef" began on local cable in Williamsport in 1996. After airing on cable for its first two years, Penn College began working with WVIA in 1998 to make the show a public television series.

During its first years on public television, "You're the Chef" aired on several Pennsylvania stations, along with some in other states. The show went national in the winter of 2001, thanks to the National Educational Telecommunications Association. NETA is a major distributor of how-to programming for public television.

Besides airing on more than 100 stations in 30 states during the past three years, "You're the Chef" has been broadcast outside the continental United States in Puerto Rico, Guam and Japan.

"I think we're one of the few shows to make the switch successfully from local public access to national public television," Speicher said. "The credit belongs to many talented individuals and the support and understanding of the College."

Throughout the years, the show has earned several awards, including two Telly Awards, two Mid-Atlantic Emmy nominations and, most recently, a Crystal Award.

The seventh season of "You're the Chef" is sponsored by Furmano Foods Inc., and food products for the series were donated by Wegmans Food Markets.

For more information about "You're the Chef," visit the program's award-winning Web site . The site features nearly 200 free recipes, show information and cooking tips.