Ebensburg woman comes in second

EBENSBURG – She made it all the way to the final round, but a local teacher from Ebensburg lost out Monday in the final cut of a national cookbook competition, although she said she has no regrets.

Lauren Kudlawiec, a family and consumer science teacher at Penn Cambria High School in Cresson, had trumped three other finalists up until this week.

But her run on the “Rachael Ray” show’s “Great American Cookbook Competition” that began last fall with more than 1,000 entrants ended with a flourish when Ray flipped over a black cover on a portrait of the winner.

Unfortunately, the picture underneath wasn’t of Kudlawiec, but that’s OK with her, she said.

“It started out that I just wanted a phone call and I ended up in the top two finalists,” she said. “It’s amazing.”

During the final elimination process, Kudlawiec impressed such renowned judges as internationally famous French chef Jacques Pepin and TV’s “Shark Tank” star Lori Greiner.

Her cookbook concept was called “Scrumptious, Simple and Secretly Healthy,” a proposal that brings together recipes she has culled from her years of teaching students how to prepare affordable, tasty yet nutritious meals, she said.

When she returned to school from her first challenge, the school cheered and a banner bore her name, she said.

“They’re like one big, family to me,” she said.

Her own family, including her husband, Bryan, who works as a pharmacist, full-time at UPMC Altoona and part-time at the Walgreens drug store in Altoona, accompanied Kudlawiec when she went to New York City to tape the show. She said she found every challenge had both hard and easy parts, such as the challenge Pepin oversaw that called for the contestants to prepare a classic omelette in three minutes.

“That was one super intense three minutes,” Kudlawiec said, even though she said she had made the egg dish before.

She made it through that round unscathed, and passed on to the next one that called for the finalists to make appetizers.

That one wasn’t too hard after she figured out what she was going to make, Kudlawiec said. The third competition, which was judged by Greiner, asked the finalists to make a dish of their choosing and pitch it to Greiner. Kudlawiec chose buffalo chicken dip with whole-wheat pita chips.

Both Greiner and Ray said they liked that Kudlawiec includes both the nutritional information plus projected costs in all of her recipes.

She said when she assembled her recipes, she compared prices at different types of stores in the region to make sure she had a good sampling of stores people all across America would use.

“I think she [Ray] and all of the other judges really appreciated that,” Kudlawiec said.

She lost out to Fanny Slater of Wilmington, N.C., who won with her cookbook concept, “Tastes like Childhood,” which were recipes based on memories from her childhood.

But Kudlawiec, who as a finalist, will receive a trip for two to Mexico and a one-time cooking instruction spot on the show’s website, said she plans to launch a cookbook later this year through an independent publisher.

Meanwhile, she’s set up her own website for people looking for her recipes.

If you’d like to try some, log onto www.laurenkcooking.com.