The Valdosta Daily Times
For 10 years, Michelle Roberts has been sharing kitchen secrets and insights through the Taste of Home Cooking School.
In less than two weeks, the culinary specialist returns to Valdosta as part of the annual Taste of Home Cooking School. She has become a familiar face to South Georgians who love the cooking school sponsored by The Valdosta Daily Times, The Home Depot and Publix.
Prior to the show, Taste of Home Cooking School participants will have the opportunity to enjoy food samples from Chick-Fil-A, Gourmet Guys, Publix seasonings, and can buy tasty barbecue from Sam’s Bar-B-Q, while visiting sponsor booths, says Mae Stokes, The Times advertising director. Each audience member also receives a gift bag.
There will be several opportunities during the show to win door prizes from local businesses as well as the dishes prepared by Roberts. Winning one of her dishes has become a fun Taste of Home tradition for more than a decade.
“Since I was in Valdosta (last year), I have celebrated my 10-year anniversary with Taste of Home Cooking Schools,” Roberts says. “Sept. 16, 2012, marked my 10 years.”
During this time, Roberts has prepared dozens of tasty dishes for Valdosta audiences. She has shared cooking tips and family stories.
She is all business during the day leading to an evening’s cooking show, but she can spin knee-slapping stories during rare moments of downtime backstage. She has an easy rapport with Valdosta and other Southern audiences.
In addition to South Georgia, Roberts presents cooking shows in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee. This Southern connection comes naturally.
Born and raised in Eddiceton, Miss., Roberts believes she has a bit of Cajun in her blood, explaining in the past that her paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Thibodeaux.
On a blog post, she wrote, “That explains why I like my food nice and spicy. Probably also explains why I am a little bit feisty, along with being a red head!”
“Red” is her nickname, and Southern food is her specialty. Asked about her favorite food to prepare, Roberts has said, “I like good Southern cooking. My favorite meal would typically have rice and gravy included. I love rice and gravy.”
Those familiar with the Taste of Home Cooking School already know that the evening includes tips on how to cook numerous kinds of dishes and styles of cuisine. This year, “we have some appetizers, salad, soup, burgers, and of course, a couple desserts,” she says.
Roberts brings a lifetime love for cooking to the dishes she prepares.
“I started cooking around the age of 6 when my brother gave me an Easy-Bake Oven,” Roberts has said. “Cooking is a family tradition. I grew up cooking with and helping my grandmother in her kitchen. I come from a family of wonderful cooks, both the men and women!”
Through the years, regular audience members have listened to stories of her nephew’s love for food.
“He just turned 14 in January and is almost as tall as me,” Roberts says of her nephew. “I am sure he will pass me up on his next growth spurt. He helped me this year to cook Christmas dinner. He also helped me the previous year to cook for Christmas. Last summer, he came and spent a week with me and I was practicing recipes for the fall show while he was here. He helped with that. I hope he never gets too old to be in the kitchen with me.”
Roberts’ love for cooking prompted her to enter the culinary world professionally. She earned a bachelor of science degree in culinary arts from Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Miss. Before becoming a Taste of Home culinary specialist, she worked in the restaurant industry and served as a foods intern for a popular magazine.
She drives about 40,000 miles annually, presenting about 40 food shows throughout the South. Yet, her passion for cooking has not diminished. She still loves cooking, even on her own time.
As for a pre-show cooking tip, she says, “I think my overall tip is to not be scared to cook. Get in the kitchen and have fun. Food is fun!”
TASTE OF HOME
The Valdosta Daily Times, Publix and Home Depot presents Taste of Home Cooking School.
When: Thursday, March 21, vendor pre-show, 5:15 p.m.; cooking show, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Mathis City Auditorium, 2300 N. Ashley St.
Tickets: $10, general admission; $35, VIP. Available through http://www.valdostadailytimes.com/; or at The Times’ 201 N. Troup St. offices; or at Publix, 1741 Gornto Road.
See ads in The Valdosta Daily Times for more information.