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Food
Food Bytes PG Cookbook The Food Chain
Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Arlene Williams weaves a Web of home-cooked seductions

Thursday, September 30, 1999

By Kathleen Ganster

Cooking show host Arlene Williams is taking her "I'm not gourmet -- I'm everyday" persona to the cutting edge of technology.

 
It gets mighty hot in Arlene Williams' kitchen under the glare of all those lights used during the filming of her internet cooking show. (Darrell Sapp, Post-Gazette) 

Tomorrow the self-proclaimed down-home, simple cook debuts what she claims is a first -- a cooking show produced exclusively for the Internet. On her Web site, www.arlenewilliams.com, "In the Kitchen with Arlene Williams" will feature 15-minute video Webcasts. Each show will feature Williams demonstrating how to prepare a dish, along with her signature inspirational messages, cooking tips and ideas for presentation and side dishes.

Williams is best known for her television program, "At Home with Arlene Williams," which was shown on Cornerstone Television. Reruns are still aired in 180 cities, including Pittsburgh, and she gets more fan mail now than when she was in regular production.

Williams is finding the Webcast show, which is filmed by New Perspective Production, is different from her television tapings. "We have to tone her down a bit," said Mark Fallone, who is in charge of the filming, "We don't use all the cameras that they use for TV. With one camera, we can't move as fast to follow her."

She resigned from her TV show three years ago, and a year later created her Web site, which she says has approximately 25,000 hits per month. Asked why she decided to move to Webcasts, she said, "I knew that I could do television. This was a natural progression for me, the next step."

Internet competition

 
    Kitchen hints from Arlene


Here are some helpful hints from Arlene Williams:

If using dried herbs instead of fresh, substitute 1 teaspoon dried herbs for every tablespoon of fresh herbs. Intensify the flavor of dried herbs by crushing them between your fingers.
Add chicken or beef broth to leftover rice, risotto or beans and stir in some sautéed vegetables for quick soup.
Add 1/2 cup applesauce for each pound of ground beef for juicy hamburgers.
For fluffier rice add a teaspoon of lemon juice to each quart of cooking water.
Before measuring syrupy sweeteners such as honey and molasses, oil the measuring cup and every drop will slip out easily.
Use a meat baster to squeeze pancake batter into a hot griddle for perfectly shaped pancakes.
Place an apple in a bag of potatoes to keep them from budding.
Bring lemons to room temperature and roll them under your palm against the counter before squeezing to get the most juice.
Spray plastic food containers with nonstick cooking spray before pouring in tomato-based sauces -- no more stains.
When a cake recipe calls for flouring the baking pan, use a bit of the dry cake mix instead to avoid a white powder outside.

 
 

Competition will be fierce. Searching the word "recipes" on Netscape last week, we got 2,277 sites. Click on "cooking" and there are 1,172 sites. To access "In the Kitchen with Arlene Williams," viewers will have to download RealPlayer, although it's free.

Still, ease of accessing the Web site is a plus for Williams, although how many fans will be willing to log on is still uncertain. Williams is building marketing partnerships with sponsors and advertisers. One sponsor, Demeyere, provides the cookware. She is also planning to conduct "e-commerce" and sell cooking-related merchandise, including the packages of her videos, on her Web site, which will also sell her upcoming holiday cookbook.

The Webcast allows her to demonstrate the actual cooking of the recipes, not just posting a recipe with still pictures. "Working people can sit in their pajamas at the end of the day and watch me cook something they can try the next day," she said. "People actually see what to do."

With Webcasting Williams can reach people from all over the world, so she plans to expand her repertoire of recipes. "I may look for more international recipes since I will have an international audience. Maybe I will try French. I may not cook like Julia, but I'll do it," she said.

From dishes to stove

A native of Turtle Creek, the daughter of a pastor and a "good cook, " Williams says her father would often invite members of his congregation to their home on Sundays and her mom would cook home-style meals. The only girl among three children, Williams was often left to clean the dishes. Her mother started teaching her how to cook when she was 9 or 10.

"She promised if I cooked, I wouldn't have to wash the dishes," Williams said at last week's press conference at the McKeesport home she shares with her husband, Paul. "That sounded pretty good to me."

Williams, now 53, credits her mother with her cooking abilities. "Mother created an atmosphere to learn. She told me, 'Don't worry if it flops. You know your dad and brothers will eat it. She opened up the world of learning to me."

Williams has never trained professionally as a chef and many of her recipes were handed down from her late mother. Others she has gleaned from her collection of more than 4,000 cookbooks.

"On a cold winter's night while others will curl up with a good novel, I'll curl up with a cookbook," she said.

Tomorrow's debut includes four programs: Apples -- Grandma's Apple Cake and Apple Bread; Brunch Buffet -- Northeastern Brunch Casserole; EZ Baked Macaroni and Frankfurter Fiesta; and Dinner Entree -- Zucchini Lasagna.

Every Friday she will then post a new show, moving an existing show to the archives. Users will be able to access past shows from the archives by subscription. Videos of the shows will also be available for purchase for those who do not have access to the Internet or wish to have the demonstrations on hand.

In addition to her Web site venture, Williams is working on her third cookbook. The first two, "At Home with Arlene Williams" and "At Home with Family and Friends," which were produced by Cornerstone, sold out. Williams hopes to have out "In the Kitchen for the Holidays" for this season.

"There will be menus to various holiday dinners for people to prepare," she said. "Often they know different dishes to make but may not know what dishes can go together."

The original segments were taped in Pittsburgh, but she will also film in other locations. "We will use private homes and restaurants. We want to keep it lively," she said.

For the press conference, Fallone and crew filmed a "mock production" of Williams preparing "Sam's Special." Named for Williams' boss at a small Italian grocery early in her marriage, Williams shared memories while she shared tips.

"Sam always told me to use the best sausage like his. When you make a dish with few ingredients, you want the best ingredients," she said.

No matter where she visits or what she cooks, Williams will keep her simple focus. "My love for family and friends is what makes me different. That and my simple, easy recipes," she said.

Related Recipes:

Grandma's Apple Cake
Sam's Special



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