Culinary advice shared

WEIRTON – Nearly 1,000 residents from throughout the Tri-State Area attended the annual Taste of Home Cooking School and vendor show Tuesday at the Serbian-American Cultural Center.

“The cooking school is one of the most anticipated events we help to sponsor every year,” said Ross Gallabrese, executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. ” It’s a chance for area residents to come out and enjoy an evening with friends while picking up some great cooking tips.”

Crowds began to line up outside the center well before the doors opened at 4:30 p.m., waiting to be the first through the doors and receive a gift bag filled with Taste of Home magazines, coupons and samples.

The two-and-a-half hour show featured Culinary Specialist Michael Barna, who prepared 10 seasonal dishes, utilizing readily available ingredients and shared time-saving and kitchen tips. The recipes included appetizers, soups, entrees and desserts.

“I feel very comfortable when I come down to West Virginia,” Barna told the audience.

Barna shared culinary tips such as using plastic wrap when thinly pounding chicken or beef, keeping plastic gloves on hand to handle raw foods, warming pans before uses and replacing water with beer in many recipes. He noted that the alcohol cooks off at 170 degrees, well below boiling.

“If you aren’t using all five senses, you’re not cooking,” Barna said.

He also encouraged cooks to use flat parsley for flavorful cooking and to teach themselves to measure out tablespoons and teaspoons in their hands.

“We searched all over for these dishes – this is the real McCoy,” he said. “We test every recipe we get three times in our three test kitchens. It looks like the picture and it comes out like that 95 percent of the time.”

He also recommended the purchase of an immersion blender.

“Everyone should have one of these,” he said. “You can get them at any gadget store.”

Before Barna became a culinary specialist for the Taste of Home Cooking School in Greendale, Wis., he served as an executive chef and general manager at a gourmet food emporium in New York City. He helped open three gourmet casino restaurants in Atlantic City and spent time as executive sous chef at a five-diamond, four-star hotel in Philadelphia. Barna earned his associate of occupational studies degree from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. He has facilitated private and online cooking classes, appeared in local and national television commercials and been featured in national recipe showcases.

Barna conducts cooking school shows throughout Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont for Taste of Home.

Those attending the evening had the chance to register to receive door prizes – with more than 70 prizes being distributed during the show – and purchase tickets for the grand-prize drawing or the winner’s choice of a either a Weber Genesis E-3-10 gas grill or a Hyde Park six-piece dining set.

In addition, those attending could visit the pre-school vendors show, where dozens of vendors offered a variety of products featuring everything from sweets to handbags to furniture and jewelry. The Tesla Lounge also was open, offering a buffet meal to those in attendance.

At the close of the show, each of the dishes prepared – along with the dinnerware on which they were presented – were awarded as door prizes.

Kelli McCoy of Lex Media was the mistress of ceremonies. The show’s major sponsors included Hancock County Savings Bank, Weirton Medical Center and Create-A-Room. The Taste of Home Cooking School also is supported by M&M Hardware, Frank and Jerry Furniture and Appliances, Kroger Hollywood City Center and the Steubenville Wal-Mart.

The vendors included Hancock County Savings Bank; Weirton Medical Center; Create-A-Room; McDonnell Chiropractic; Thera-Jewel, Stella and Dot; Uniquely Designed; Chris Rocchio with BeautiControl; Images; Miriam Soloman with Mary Kay; Origami Owl; Debbie Lawton with Tastefully Simple; Barb Cuchta, “The Bag Lady”; Mary Bizzari; Tammy Scott with 31; Vickie Garan with Avon; Schrickel Chiropractic; EZ Care; Kathy Soplinski; Suzanne Stable; Steubenville Chiropractic; Bath Fitter; Gina West with Tupperware; Debbie Burget and Kim Polsinelli, both with Nerium International; Larue Jewelers; Gallo Wines; and Bayberry Inn.

Each year, thousands of people from across the United States and Canada submit more than 40,000 recipes to Taste of Home, 3,000 of which are published. Every recipe published is evaluated and selected by the Taste of Home Test Kitchen, which ensures it can be prepared with affordable, everyday ingredients. Taste of Home content is available in print; online at; in books; via digital download on iPad, mobile apps and Kindle; and Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Obtain a subscription at or on a digital download device.

For information about the Taste of Home Cooking School, visit the website at