An Ebensburg woman already has survived two cuts in Rachael Ray's "Great American Cookbook Competition."
Airing Mondays through May 19 on Ms. Ray's television show, the competition seeks to name "the next Rachael Ray" and grant the winner a cookbook deal.
Lauren Kudlawiec, a home economics (it's now known as "family and consumer science") teacher at Penn Cambria High School in Cresson, was one of five finalists who appeared on the initial show on April 28. She made the first cut and then survived the second round this past Monday, May 5, as well.
"Writing a cookbook has been one of my life goals," she said. So when she heard about Ms. Ray's competition while watching the show over Thanksgiving break, she knew she had to enter.
She wants to write a cookbook that will show people how to do "healthy cooking that is affordable but also delicious."
She's well on her way. For the first round of competition, she had to film a three-minute video explaining her cookbook concept and showing a demo recipe, submit two recipes and write two mini-essays.
The second round included a phone interview, at which point the finalist list was narrowed to 10.
Those 10 entrants had to submit portfolios of at least 10 recipes, but Ms. Kudlawiec went all out, submitting 34, including nutrition and cost information, plus titles for 10 additional recipes.
So while she was very "surprised and thrilled" to get a call from Ms. Ray herself, informing her she was one of the five finalists, she also knew how hard she'd worked and had really hoped she'd get the chance to compete in the finals.
"I love my job," she said, noting she cooks and bakes all day with her students "and then, no joke, I go home and cook and bake some more."
She says she also DVRs "The Rachael Ray Show" and watches it every evening, so it was a thrill to spend a week taping in New York and meeting the host in person.
Ms. Kudlawiec earned her bachelor's and master's degrees at Duquesne University and taught two years in the Pittsburgh Public Schools system before moving back to her native Johnstown area.
Her husband, Bryan, who is her high-school sweetheart, is a pharmacist for UPMC Altoona.