Students will be ‘really cooking’ on TV this Sunday
GLENVAR – Nathan Keffer and Alvin Wheeler watched carefully as Executive Chef Steve Alls showed them how to stir pasta until it was perfectly cooked “al dente.”
“Bite it and tell me if it’s done or not,” said Alls. Al dente pasta shouldn’t be too soft, he explained.
Viewers can see how well the students learned on Sunday, Nov. 3, on this week’s segment of “Cookin with Kroger” on ABC 13 television, at 7:30 a.m. The show is on first and third Sundays in Salem, Roanoke, Lynchburg, the New River Valley and in Richmond. It’s also can be seen on YouTube linked to www.cookinwithkroger.com.
The Glenvar High School Advanced Drama students were taking their turn on camera with Alls, who lives in Salem and is The Kroger Company Division Executive Chef for the Mid-Atlantic Region. He’s also host of the regional cooking show on Sunday mornings that has been on the air for about a year. It’s the first time GHS students have been part of the process, which also involves a tech crew of four adults.
Because Alls and Glenvar High School Drama Department head Steve Franco “have been buddies for years,” the two collaborated to give Franco’s students practical, hands-on experience, both on and off camera. The theater arts students get an idea of how it is behind the scenes, Alls said, “and how unglamorous. It’s about 10 minutes on air ad three hours of getting prepared.”
“They’re used to stage acting,” said Franco during the morning filming on Oct. 2 in the kitchen area of Plow and Hearth at Valley View Mall, where “Cookin with Kroger” is produced by Adam Ranzer. “This is a totally different form. It’s great for them to get different experience,” added Franco.
Alls explained the students were not only the on-air talent, but also the production crew that assisted with setting up lighting and teleprompting. They provided culinary assistance on the filming day. Read culinary assistance as “chopping vegetables” and “washing dishes.”
Annie Doss and Cassie Waldron helped Alls prep for one of the first segments by pounding out chicken for Chicken Parmigiana. Students shared some of their and their families’ favorite recipes for the show. Annie’s was Cookie Balls. “We’re calling them Sweet Bombs,” she said, explaining it was Oreo cookies mixed with cream cheese and vanilla candy coating.
“You can put them in the fridge for 5 or 10 minutes, and let them set. They’re ready to eat,” she added.
In the back cleaning up dishes were Bryce Mallette and Zachary Alls, Steve Alls’ son – who was a theater arts student last year but this time, came to help his dad “and be part of the experience,” he said. On the other side of the kitchen, students Eric Richards and Petey Deaver did timing for the show and ran the teleprompter.
“It’s exciting to get to meet the people you see on TV,” said Eric, who likes to cook Italian.
Alvin was excited to be on a real set, he said. “When you are cooking pasta, you have to stir continuously,” Steve Alls was explaining, after showing Nathan and Alvin not to add oil to cooking water “or the pasta sauce won’t stick.”
In front of them were a selection of prepped fresh basil, mushrooms, Panco bread crumbs for the Chicken Parmigiana, Kroger Private Selection tomato and basil sauce and other necessities. Also prominently displayed was a Salem-area product, Big Spring Mills Seasoned Flour, which is produced in Elliston by the Long family. That’s sold at Kroger stores, too.
“The hardest part of working on this show is being here and smelling all the food,” said Franco, laughing. Students and adults got to taste the finished results, but not until everything was plated and photographed.
Getting the students set up to assist with the show actually took a long time, said Alls, working around Franco’s play, getting permission for the students and arranging the field trip and half day away from school.