Chef Michael Barna will return to Williamsport for the seventh-annual Taste of Home Cooking Show hosted by the Sun-Gazette.
The show starts at 7 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St., with a vendor preview beginning at 3 p.m. at the Genetti Hotel.
According to event organizer Connie Tobias, Barna's first visit in 2010 was so well-received that she was excited to hear he was returning for this year's show.
Tobias said the Sun-Gazette usually hosts a holiday-themed show and this year she was looking to try something different and fun with the Halloween-themed event. Those who dress in a Halloween costume will receive a chance to win a special prize and the six best costumes will have a chance to compete on stage for the honor of being selected as the Best Costume of the Night by the audience.
Barna has been with Taste of Home since 2010 and said his favorite part of the live shows are interacting with the attendees and backstage volunteers pre-, during and post-show.
"Some of the nicest people that truly want to tell you their stories of success and failures and I love to listen," Barna said. "Second has to be the food in the towns I'm in and the chefs that run them. You can't make this stuff up!"
Barna said the show will feature a full 10 recipes during a 2 1/2 hour show that blends appetizers, entrees and desserts.
What sets him apart from other culinary specialists is that he is a trained chef.
"I have many years of having to get it right where time and ease in the kitchen really paid off, so I share everything I've learned with the audience. I love that part," he said.
Barna said that there are several trained culinary specialists on the Taste of Home staff and that they each have their own great stage presence.
"We contribute more to stage activities and leave recipe selection to our readers and national sponsors," he said. "We have test kitchens at Taste of Home to make sure all of our recipes not only work and taste great but come out looking like the pictures."
Barna said one of his specialities is preparing gefilte fish and a special Seder plate.
"I had the pleasure of converting [to Judaism] about 22 years ago and had to learn a whole new culture, tradition and cooking style," he said. "My mother-in-law is still trying to teach me the 'real way' to make a brisket and to this day, hers is still the best."
But cooking isn't the only kitchen work Barna is known for - he also has been a culinary hand model and hand double in movies.
"I've done ads for Crisco, Lancaster brand meats, Herr's chips and even was Mel Gibson's hand double in the movie 'Signs'- I chopped the alien's fingers off in the house scene," he said.
Barna hopes the audience has fun during the show.
"After going through the pre-show vender area and giving away as many gifts as we do at a show, it's not hard to feel good getting ready for the holidays," he said. "Tasteofhome.com is the 'go-to' website for the holidays so, check us out for other fantastic recipes, cooking gadgets and cookbooks."
Growing up, Barna said his grandparents lived just a field and screen door away and that began his love of using locally grown foods.
"Every year they had a 20-by-40-foot garden that was full with wonderful foods that I was taught to care for and harvest and then give back to the earth with sharing, eating and, of course, composting," he said.
Even though his job requires him to cook all day, Barna said pasta is his most frequently go-to made dish. But he's not he only one who cooks in his house.
"You don't want to eat, sleep and work food all day and then come home and do it some more. My wife is amazing at always having something great for us to eat any given time of the day," he said. "A house is a home when tradition and love is passed down in a family and that's why this job, this magazine, is such an integrals part of my life. And by the way, we still know how to make reservations. It's always nice to let someone else pick up a saute pan now and then."
Tickets are on sale at the Sun-Gazette office, 252 W. Fourth St., and may be ordered during that time by calling 326-1551 or 800-339-0289 or stopping in the office from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
General admission is $12 with preferred seating in the first five rows for $25 per person. Chef's VIP Circle seating, which is in the Sterling Circle and includes a meet-and-greet with the chef, are $50. Limited seating is available.