Taste of Home show draws cooking curious, serious

DULUTH - In two months, Carrie Taylor will add a new member to her family. With that in mind, and with a baby boy growing in her belly, Taylor headed out to the Taste of Home cooking school.

"I try to cook every night, and recipes get used and reused because it's what the kids eat," said Taylor. "I'm hoping this will teach me new recipes to feed my expanding family."

More than 900 attendees filled the Gwinnett Center on Thursday for the fourth annual show. Some, like Taylor, were there to add simple, tasty new ideas to their recipe box. Others, like Cumming resident Shirley Bullinger, were merely hoping to start a recipe box.

"I told my husband I was going to come home a gourmet cook. He just laughed, because I really don't cook very much," Bullinger said. "Who knows, though. After this, maybe I will. If nothing else, I'll learn some new tips."

From the stage, chef Michelle Roberts crafted eleven homestyle recipes, from an updated Shepherd's pie to tropical bran muffins and a ham and cheese strudel. She dispensed her years of culinary know-how and demonstrated the easiest ways to roll out dough, saute onions and twist pastry shells into a party-worthy hors d'oeuvre. Some advice was elementary (don't lick the beater while the mixer is still on), some was savvy (coat the cling wrap with nonstick spray to keep it from pulling the dough), but mostly, her comments were jovial.

"Now, be sure to read the labels. See there, that was cumin, not cinnamon," Roberts said. "Well, y'all probably already knew to do that. Just have a good time in the kitchen. It should be fun."

Behind the black stage curtain, a group of students from Killian Hill Christian Academy busied themselves as Roberts go-to girls. The five students from Ronda Evens' family life skills course acted as the sous chefs, preparing dishes backstage to ease the two-hour cooking demonstration. While the experience may have been an opportunity for extra credit, for senior Alley Jones, it was more about having a chance to try her hand at her future career.

"I want to go to culinary arts school when I graduate, so this was a great hands-on opportunity for me," said Jones. "I've picked up a few tricks and new ideas, like the tiramisu bowl. I wouldn't have thought to do that before, but it's a great idea."