Our Valley Cooks Food Expo Pt. 2


Today I promised part 2 of my review of the Our Valley Cooks food expo and I hope this is going to be posted tonight. WordPress has been having some issues today which has prevented me from posting this so I am typing my entry into a word processing document that I can copy and paste. Don’t ask me why I don’t do this more often as it makes a lot of sense. I hope the draft I typed up for tomorrow’s post is still in the deep recesses of WordPress’ servers.

Yesterday I told you I got to meet Aarti Sequeira, winner of the last “Next Food Network Star” Season 6 and star of the new show Aarti Party. Aarti started our as a journalist who was also a food blogger like me. She learned to cook from a young age because, as she put it, “I liked to eat”. I also like to eat. She comes from a strong ethnic background, Indian, and I come from my own strong ethnic heritage and both of us have a desire to help people enjoy the foods from those backgrounds. Aarti’s stage presence was very fun and entertaining and it’s easy to see why she won over the judges’ hearts in the competition.

Aarti Sequeira, food network

If you look close, the program in the foreground is mine and signed by Aarti to me. She wrote “Cook with Joy”.

My first run-in with Aarti was in the volunteer area and I did not have my camera with me. So I had my friend Nancy use my pink Razr camera phone to snap a picture of us.

 Aarti commented that she also had a phone like mine, until she dropped it in the toilet. That was just too funny. Right then I knew she was very personable. You just never know about these TV stars and whether or not they will be nice in person with the fake personality but Aarti is the real deal. Later, after my shift, I was able to enjoy her demo where she made Huggy Buggy Bread Pudding for the audience. During each demo, raffle tickets were sold for $1.00 each for the privilege of sitting at the table on stage to eat the food being cooked. I bought two during Aarti’s demo and won the consolation prize of a golf package for four including a cart. I guess I can’t win them all.

Just Pizzelles, Christina Benton

When I first arrived at the expo and was all checked in with the volunteer coordinator, I went around to a just a few vendors before I had to report for duty. In that time I stopped by Just Pizzelles. Christina Benton is a super creative woman. She is also driven to do what she has a passion for-kind of like me. She recently was able to get a bag of her pizzelles in each of the swag bags given out at the Academy Awards. Can you believe it? I got the chance to ask Christina about how she went about doing this feat. She told me she “cold called” the Academy and asked about it. Goodness, she has guts. She found out who she had to call next and kept making calls until she was able to get what she wanted. She had to pay all the expenses out-of-pocket to do that but hopefully she will get some contracts from the endeavor. During the holiday season she and her team, which happens to be made up of many family members, made over 100,000 dozen in 6 weeks time. Christina carries over 60 flavors of pizzelles and you can order online from her store. She is working on a fundraiser program for non-profits as well. This weekend Christina is making pizzelles for a wedding which I think is very cool. I would have loved to have these tasty cookies at my wedding.

Oh and in case you think these are your ordinary run of the mill pizzelles, let me tell you they are anything but! They are very tasty and she had samples of just about every flavor. Just look at the lovely display. She created a margarita flavored cookie with fun colors and the cookies look like citrus fruit slices. How neat is that?

The effort that went into this food expo was for a great non-profit organization, Meridian Community Care. Meridian’s director is Larry Moliterno and he is a big guy with a big heart. I can see why Meridian makes a difference in the Mahoning Valley area of Ohio. The focus of Meridian is drug and alcohol prevention programs and treatment and care of those addicted. They also provide housing and support services for mothers and their children and veterans. As I spent some time reading over their website and reading about their services and programs, I am deeply touched by all they do. I could imagine if my life had not taken the path the Lord lead me down, I might have been in need of a place like Meridian. Please take some time to read about their programs and consider a donation to Meridian. At this point I have a few vendors in mind who might be interested in getting a booth at next year’s food expo.

Here I am with Larry.

One last bit for today’s entry is about the Mahoning Valley Classic Chefs. They are a group of local chefs and they happen to be Italian as well. Did I mention that Youngstown is full of Italians and many of the chefs at the show were Italians and work at Italian restaurants? Ma familia! Let me just say these guys know how to have fun, on stage and off. I won’t give away all their secrets though. These chefs all competed against each other, in teams, a la Iron Chef America and put on quiet a show.

Valley Classic chefs

Their secret ingredient was pancetta and I love pancetta. I missed getting to be at the table to taste the food in what turned out to be a very embarrassing moment. I pride myself on my honesty so here it is. When the numbers were called from the raffle tickets, I transposed the last three numbers on one of my tickets and ran up front thinking I had a winning ticket. No go! lol…talk about embarrassing. It was quite funny later when I did win that golf package and the ticket checker asked me if I had the right number this time. hehe.  See how much fun they had?

Tomorrow I’ll try to wrap up a very eventful day and highlight a few more vendors and talk about what I actually did at the food expo. I can’t wait for next year.

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10 thoughts on “Our Valley Cooks Food Expo Pt. 2

  1. Hey Michelle, I’m sitting here looking out at the ocean, listening to the waves crash, drinking my coffee and thought I’d go onto your blog to catch up with you. Funny story about the food expo and the ticket. Glad you had such a great time. Keep up the blogging. So fun to read.

  2. What fun! I would love to go to something like that.
    I have a friend that went to summer camp with Aarti and says she is just as nice as can be.

  3. Loads of fun! I can see why you immediately related to Aarti. Her site is pretty awesome. Now the Pizzelles would have definitely been my favorite. Boy I would love to try a margarita one sounds realllly goood!

  4. One correction, since I was there, the Italian chefs on stage did’t just work at Italian restaurants, most of them owned an Italian restaurant in the area. Too Cool.

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