Chef Mario Porreca does not like to follow recipes.
"Cooking is an art," Mr. Porreca, of Rostraver, said. "When I'm doing my own thing, it's like I'm a musician working on my own album."
But the chef will use a recipe today when he demonstrates how to prepare a new sandwich created by the well-known Emeril Lagasse at the Giant Eagle Market District South Hills. Mr. Porreca will be at the store in Bethel Park from noon to 3 p.m.
Mr. Porreca is one of 22 chefs and food bloggers from around the country who were selected by William Morrow Cookbooks to take part this month in its Serious Sandwich Cookalong. The event celebrates Mr. Lagasse's latest cookbook, "Emeril's Kicked-up Sandwiches," which was released Tuesday.
The chefs cook seven recipes and then tweet and blog about them, Mr. Porreca explained.
A former sous chef at the Duquesne Club and a graduate of the Culinary Arts Program at Westmoreland County Community College, Mr. Porreca has been blogging on his website, mariocooks.com, since last year. The site includes podcasts of his online show, "The Mario Cooks Show," and his appearances on local television talk shows plus cooking suggestions and instructions.
Mr. Porreca started cooking as a boy with his grandfather, who also is named Mario Porreca.
"He influenced me. We would cook and watch Emeril. He was the face of the Food Network then," he said, adding that participating in the sandwich cookalong holds an "emotional hook" to his past.
In his blogs from the cookalong, Mr. Porreca encourages cooks: "The actual cooking process for this particular sandwich [Porchetta with Dandelion Greens] is really quite easy."
But he's also honest: "The prep work, on the other hand, took a little time."
Plus, he's humorous: "If you aren't hungry after reading this post ... you may not have a pulse!"
The participating chefs are able to submit questions about the recipes to Mr. Lagasse through the publisher, said Lauren Cook, associate publicist for Morrow Cookbooks, a division of Harper Collins.
Mr. Lagasse actually recommended Chef Porreca prepare the porchetta recipe via a tweet.
"Emeril also retweets a lot of [the chefs'] blog posts and tweets, so it's drawing a lot of traffic to their sites," Ms. Cook said.
"They are promoting the book through our posts, and we get to use these massive networks to promote our brand," Mr. Porreca said.
Posts from the chefs also are showcased on Morrow's cookbook blog, The Secret Ingredient at thesecretingredientblog.com. The blog provides Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest updates about the cookalong.
Mr. Porreca said he has always considered Mr. Lagasse a mentor and is excited about the possibility of discussing professional experiences.
"I would love to ask him how his life has changed from being an executive chef in the kitchen to where he is today," Mr. Porreca said.
Laurie Bailey, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.