‘Cooking for All Seasons’ encourages kitchen adventures

MHAT

The Gilroy Garlic Festival this weekend will bring tens of thousands of people to our region to experience the culinary delights of America’s most famous food festival. Even though the festival casts a spotlight on the South Valley as a gourmet haven, there are plenty of food eating opportunities than just the garlic-laced ones here. Morgan Hill Access TV’s very own Judy Keyes has a regular show called “Cooking for All Seasons” where she helps local residents appreciate the art of preparing delicious meals.
Judy Keyes and her husband have attended every Gilroy Garlic Festival except for the very first one. And she’s even competed in the festival’s popular cook-off contest. In 1996, she won third place with her Roasted Garlic Cheesecake concoction – a rich dessert in a polenta crust accented with a light fresh tomato sauce.
Keyes has been hosting cooking shows for more than eight years now and enjoys sharing the joy of food preparation with her TV show viewers. Her chef show is produced by members of MHAT-19 and can be viewed on the Morgan Hill station (cable channel 19 in Morgan Hill) as well as CMAP and other public access television stations in the San Francisco Bay Area. It can also be viewed online at www.cookingforallseasons.com.
The purpose of the show is to build up confidence in people to get into the kitchen and have fun making a meal, Keyes said. The broadcast begins with the Morgan Hill resident introducing the episode’s theme, such as cooking with mushrooms. The audience is a made up of friends and family, with everyone sitting down with Keyes to enjoy the delicious results at the end of the episode.
“My focus it to get people into the kitchen and just try cooking,” she said. “I believe in not making recipes so difficult and so involved that people won’t try cooking.”
Food is a way for people to socialize and get better acquainted with each other, whether it is with family or friends, she said. She encourages viewers to look at their own ethnic heritage and explore the culinary legacy that comes with that heritage. Cooking your own meals is also healthier – and often cheaper – than eating fast food restaurant meals.
“I try to encourage young people to learn to cook,” Keyes said. “Young people are realizing that it’s a lot less expensive if you learn to cook things for yourself.”
The culinary arts also bring a lot of satisfaction through the creation of delicious meals that can be shared at the table, Keyes said. Very often, people feel intimidated if the recipe they attempt does not produce a dish as “perfect looking” as the one that appears in the photo of a recipe book or on a Martha Stewart-like cooking show. Keyes encourages people to not judge their cooking attempts by such specialized standards. Very often, food on a recipe book’s photo or on many cooking shows are arranged by professional food preparers to look “exceptionally nice,” she said.
“It sometimes intimates people if the final result doesn’t look exactly like the one they saw in the show,” she said. “I tell them, we all have different kitchens, we all have different ovens. So long as it looks good to you and it tastes goods, you’re doing alright.”
Keyes also encourages viewers to seek out local products. The South Valley has a cornucopia of farms and ranches, so it’s easy to find ingredients that are locally produced and in season to add a high quality of taste to a recipe.
“We have everything here,” she said, “so I tell people to use what’s available here.”
The secret to learning to cook is to just jump into the kitchen and do it, Keyes insists. Every beginning chef – including celebrity chefs Julia Child and Jacques Pepin when they started off – makes mistakes as part of the learning process. But with practice and diligence, anyone can learn the techniques to good cooking, Keyes said.
“As you cook more and more, just like everything else in life, it peaks your interest,” she said. “Just jump in and begin. The more you do, the better you’ll get and the more fun you’ll have.”

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