LOWVILLE — Tickets are now on sale for the annual Taste of Home Cooking School, slated for mid-October.
“This cooking school has been a tremendously successful fundraiser for us,” said Arlene S. Hall, executive director at Mountain View Prevention Services, which sponsors the event. “The community has been so supportive. We work to make this show better each year.”
The national cooking show will return to the Lowville Academy and Central School auditorium for the fourth year on Oct. 18, with Chef Eric Villegas set to return for a second year.
“We’re excited he is coming back,” Mrs. Hall said. “People really enjoyed him.”
Prices are $15 for general admission and $50 for VIP tickets. To order tickets, visit the Mountain View office at 7714 Number Three Road, call 376-2321 or visit www.mountain viewprevention.org.
All ticket holders receive a gift bag containing a multitude of recipes, including all that will be prepared in the show, along with products and items that both the national sponsors and local businesses have contributed, coupons for discounts from local vendors and information about the area.
A VIP ticket — which is not available for purchase online — offers front-row seating, a meet-and-greet with Chef Villegas, a behind-the-scenes tour of the food preparation area and a chance to try some of the food featured in the day’s show. An additional door prize raffle will be held for VIP ticket holders only.
“We try to make it an extra special day for those with a VIP ticket,” Mrs. Hall said.
The past three shows have all sold out, so it is important to reserve a spot, she said.
Door prizes — including the 10 dishes, from appetizers through desserts, prepared by the chef — are handed out throughout the 2½-hour show.
“Because of the business community’s generosity, this is a show that features many great prizes,” Mrs. Hall said.
Doors open at 11 a.m., several hours before the start of the show, allowing ticket-holders to visit vendors, reserve a seat in the auditorium and get something to eat.
Anyone interested in being a vendor at the show can call 376-2321 to reserve a booth. Vendors registered and paid by Friday will be entered into a drawing to win a free booth this year.
Chef Villegas was born and raised in Saginaw, Mich. Throughout his career, he has opened two restaurants, written two cookbooks and earned two regional Emmy awards for his television show, “Fork in the Road with Eric Villegas.”
Mrs. Hall said the chef received rave reviews not only from audience members but from the volunteers who assisted him both in pre-show preparations and on stage.
As with the chefs in past years, Chef Villegas is planning to come to the area a day or so early, allowing him to visit some food producers and sample local delicacies. “They come away understanding a little bit about what we have to offer,” Mrs. Hall said.
Dishes prepared during the show also tend to “accentuate dairy products,” she said.
“That’s something we definitely like to see for our local farmers,” Mrs. Hall said.
The color theme for this year’s show is pink, going along with the community’s “Paint the Town Pink” initiative for October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A special raffle will be held, with proceeds going to the Lewis County General Hospital’s Fund for Hope, which assists families of cancer patients.
A Cooks Who Care program also will be offered. Anyone who brings in a nonperishable food item for the local food pantry will be eligible for a special drawing for an additional door prize. Once again this year, the focus is on food items for school weekend backpacks that go home with many children on the weekends, and items collected will be divided among Lewis County schools with backpack programs. Ideal food items would include peanut butter, crackers, single-serve food dishes that can be heated easily and small packs of fruits and vegetables.
“This event involves a great deal of planning and work and involves our staff, board of directors and members of the community,” Mrs. Hall said. “We would not be able to do this without the help of all of these people.”
Mountain View Prevention Services, now in its 27th year, is a private, nonprofit agency focusing on prevention education for alcohol, tobacco and substance abuse issues. Programs offered include the Student Assistance Program, Youth Advocate Program, SUPER ED, Lifeskills Training, Teen Intervene, Project ALERT and YEAH! Community Coalition, which is focused on youth.