Executive Chef Michael Kelly


Times Leader, The (Wilkes Barre, PA) ENTERTAINING ENTREES

MARY THERESE BIEBEL mbiebel@timesleader.com

When Rustic Kitchen Bistro & Bar opens its newest restaurant at Mohegan Sun later this year, local resident Kate Gabriele will be the "celebrity chef" who cooks for guests and lets them watch the fun of preparation. "Fun," by the way, is the operative word. "You can go to different places and have a cooking lesson, but what we found is people want to dine and learn and be entertained, and the emphasis is on entertainment," said Rustic Kitchen owner Jim Cafarelli, whose flagship restaurant in Boston has a six-week waiting list to attend its Friday-night cooking demonstrations. The Boston show owes its popularity to self-taught chef Alissa Bigelow, he said. "She has this electric personality, and that´s what made this show so successful." Gabriele is similarly engaging, Cafarelli said, and people will enjoy watching her cook as well, in "a fully functioning kitchen that is also a broadcast studio." "We´ll probably start with several evening shows per week - Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights. Eventually, and hopefully due to the popularity of the show, we´ll have them every night, and then later, a daytime and nighttime show." Rustic Kitchen hopes to finalize arrangements with a local television station to broadcast local shows. But to actually eat the food, of course, you´d want to attend a show in person - and meet Gabriele. "I am so excited. Once we get up and running it´s going to be amazing," said the local chef, who considers this new opportunity a homecoming of sorts. A graduate of Crestwood High School and Marywood University with a bachelor´s degree in family and consumer sciences and a minor in nutrition, Gabriele also studied at the Baltimore International Culinary College, traveled to Europe to learn about continental cuisine and practiced Southern styles of cooking when she worked in New Orleans. Gabriele recently offered some answers to our questions: TL: What kind of dishes do you like to prepare? KG: Personally, I like to cook dishes that I can prepare on a grill all year round. Using freshly ground spice blends or marinades can change an ordinary chicken breast into something outstanding. Plus, grilling uses a little amount of fat, making it a healthier method of cooking, and it´s simply great fun. TL: How is cooking as a celebrity chef different from cooking at home? KG: One, the audience is much smaller. (Ha-ha). Seriously, not much of a difference to me as a chef. But, since I love to cook, the brand new, state-of-the-art cooking studio they are currently building at Rustic Kitchen is a key difference and a perk for me. I can fall in love very fast with kitchen equipment. TL: Do you live in Mountain Top now? KG: No, but I do still live in the Wyoming Valley area and love living here. Not only are the people of this area so wonderful and unbelievably generous, it´s one of the most beautiful regions of the country in which to live. TL: What are the challenges of cooking with cameras rolling? KG: I have done cooking shows in the past so cooking in front of a live audience is not new to me. The challenges are to keep your wits about you and not get rattled. If something burns or blows up and really, who hasn´t had that happen? You make more, right? Or create a new dish from that clever mistake you´ve just made. I´ve had some crazy things happen to me, but you just have to roll with it. And since this show will be done in a small, intimate studio environment, the audience will be able to see, smell and taste everything, which is much of the charm of the experience. The shows will be designed to be informative cooking demonstrations filled with lots of interesting facts, plus, the guests who are dining with us can ask questions while they eat, have some wine and relax throughout the show while I prepare the featured items. TL: Will you share a recipe with our readers? KG: Sure. And maybe a few thoughts on the importance of the ingredients you use. Using the best and freshest ingredients that you can find is key. If you have bad produce or a bad piece of meat - you can´t really fix that. Always be aware to check what you are buying before you leave your store or wherever you happen to shop. Since the farmers markets will be right around the corner, I take advantage of local produce. Not only to support our local economy, but because it´s fresh. The farmers market alway reminds me of one of my fondest memories. My family would come back from church on a hot summer day, and one of us would go out to our garden and pick fresh tomatoes, some fresh basil and bring them in the house to make a tasty al fresco pasta sauce. Dad would put the pasta water on and take the tomatoes (maybe four or five of them) and drop them into another pot of boiling water to take the skins off. He would take a few garlic cloves, a bit of salt and use a pestle to crush them. To that, he would add a handful of freshly washed basil leaves, and crush them into the garlic mixture. After the skins of the tomatoes were taken off, he would roughly chop them into the garlic-basil mixture and mix it together. At the end he would add some olive oil, cracked black pepper and pour a scoop of the sauce over your plated pasta as we all stood in line at the stove in the kitchen. My grown-up version now pairs that same dish -- made the same way with a light summer wine and a loaf of bread -- and to me life can´t get any better than that.

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